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Dirk Nowitzki’s Retirement: Who We Are Is More Important than What We Do

Jim Denison | Denison Forum | Updated: Apr 12, 2019
Dirk Nowitzki’s Retirement: Who We Are Is More Important than What We Do

Dirk Nowitzki’s Retirement: Who We Are Is More Important than What We Do

Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks retired from the NBA Wednesday night.

I don’t normally write on Dallas-centric sports news, recognizing that we have more than 170,000 Daily Article readers in 203 countries and most of them probably care less about my local sports teams than I do. 

But Dirk’s story transcends Dallas and the NBA. 

In fact, it makes a point worth considering for everyone who follows Jesus. 

Praise for “Uncle Dirk” 

Nowitzki was undoubtedly one of the greatest players in NBA history: a league champion and Finals MVP, league MVP, fourteen-time all-star, and the sixth-leading scorer of all time. He played twenty-one years with the same franchise, which is a record as well. 

The San Antonio Spurs, the team he played in his last NBA game, showed a video tribute in his honorA rival coach stopped the game in Los Angeles and called on fans to pay homage to him.

But the adulation he has received in Dallas and across basketball is about much more than what he did on the court. 

While Dirk’s salary was lucrative, he took pay cuts so his team could try to sign other players. He cared about the locker room attendants wherever the Mavericks played. His many unpublicized hospital trips to visit children (who called him “Uncle Dirk”) were just part of his commitment to his community. 

The Washington Post celebrated his loyalty to his team and city. A writer in Washington, DC, praised him for his humility. At his retirement ceremony in Dallas, Charles Barkley called him “the nicest man ever.” 

It was Dirk Nowitzki’s humility and service off the court, even more than his athletic achievements on it, that endeared him to sports fans across the country. 

As he reminds us, who we are is more important than what we do. 

Why is God’s world the way it is? 

The Washington Post is reporting that “burnout is everywhere these days.” According to one survey, “95 percent of human resource leaders say burnout is sabotaging workplace retention, often because of overly heavy workloads.” 

In other news, Minneapolis police announced that fifty-eight people were arrested in a sex trafficking sting during the recent NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament. Twenty-eight victims of sex trafficking were rescued. 

Why is God’s world the way it is? Why is each day’s news dominated by crime and conflict, sin and shame? 

You might blame the Fall, and you’d be right. When Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation was affected and afflicted (Romans 8:22). 

However, if our fallen world is inherently sinful, how could Jesus have entered it and remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15)? If our fallen bodies are irrelevant to God, why did Jesus spend so much time healing them (cf. Matthew 9:35)? 

The hands and feet of God 

The evangelical impulse to be “witnesses” to the lost is obviously biblical and urgent (Acts 1:8). But there is more to our calling on earth than leading people to faith in Jesus, then waiting until we die so we can go to heaven. 

Christians are to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), helping people follow Jesus in every dimension of their lives. We are to care for God’s creation (Genesis 2:15) and serve those in need (Matthew 25:35–40). 

We are to show our culture that who we are is more important than what we do. And we are to lead people to the only One who can give them abundant and eternal life (John 10:10; John 3:16). 

As Frederick Buechner notes, you and I are to “be [Jesus’] hands and feet in a world where he no longer has hands and feet.” 

How to minister to lepers 

Perhaps you know the story of Joseph Damien. 

A Belgian priest, he was sent in 1873 to minister to lepers in Hawaii. As soon as he arrived on Molokai, he began trying to build friendships with the residents of the leper colony there, but they rejected him. He built a small chapel and held regular services, but hardly anyone came. 

After twelve long years, Father Damien gave up. While standing on the pier about to board the ship that would take him home to Belgium, he looked down at his hands. The white spots he saw there could mean only one thing: he had contracted leprosy. 

So, instead of going home, he returned to his work in the leper colony. 

News of the missionary’s disease spread quickly through the community, and soon hundreds of lepers rushed to his hut. They understood his pain and despair. 

The following Sunday, when Father Damien arrived at the chapel, the building was filled to overflowing. Thus began a long and fruitful ministry. 

What made the difference? 

The lepers knew that their minister understood their condition. They knew that he cared about them, that he could identify with them, that he was one of them. 

This is the story of Christmas and Easter. It is the story of Jesus’ love for you and everyone you know. 

Let’s make it our story today, to the glory of God.

NOTE: At Denison Forum, we know how challenging it can be to take a Christian stance on today’s issues.

That’s one reason we launched “Biblical Insight to Tough Questions,” a weekly YouTube video where I address a difficult topic from a biblical viewpoint.

I hope you are encouraged by today’s discussion: “What are your spiritual gifts? Are they the same as talents?”

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Publication Date: April 12, 2019

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images/Ronald Martinez/Staff

Dirk Nowitzki’s Retirement: Who We Are Is More Important than What We Do