To reach our full potential, we return to the basics — applying and mastering the foundational principles to our pursuits. No matter our field of study or area of expertise, we strive to understand the essential facts or concepts of a subject or skill.
In school, I excelled in mathematics and sciences. I knew that once the basic principles were established, every future aspect would securely be positioned upon it. I never achieved much success in other more vague and subjective studies.
Acclaimed UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, began every new coaching season by teaching his players how to put on their socks. Doesn’t that sound foolish? Wouldn’t these accomplished athletes already know how to put on their socks? Had all their mothers neglected to teach them this basic skill? Coach Wooden knew that if his players put on their socks improperly, they would develop blisters, which would impede their speed and maneuverability. So, he took them back to the basics, teaching his college players how to put on their socks.
Basics are important!
Back to the Basics
People may generally be divided into two distinct groups:
- The first group proudly wears their credentials, denying any need for instruction or correction and ensuring their superficial masks remain in tack behind busy lives. They consistently avoid situations which may expose personal weakness.
- The second group humbly receives correction and acknowledges deficiencies. They take personal responsibility for change. With humility, they return to the basics, again and again, seeking authentic transformation — even when it becomes obvious they need to relearn how “to put on their socks.”
“Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.”
To go back to the basics of humility, I present three case studies: Peter, Moses, and Jesus. Each walked a similar, yet unique, path of humility. Each learned that by willingly going “low,” God brought them great honor. Of course, there are many other men and women we could add to this list.
Of all the disciples, I relate to Peter the most. Words like overconfident, proud, or presumptuous accurately describe this zealous leader. Often in the same breath, we find Peter speaking with divine understanding and with grotesque error. His encounter with the Holy Spirit we read about in Acts 2 changes Peter forever.
I believe a prior turning point proved equally significant for Peter, however. His failure to stand faithfully with Jesus when it mattered most caused Peter to question everything about being a disciple. His life’s direction stood in jeopardy. Confused and discouraged, he went back to what he knew — fishing.
“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out . . .”
Of course, their fishing expedition proved unsuccessful. After Jesus fed them from His own catch, He confronted the heart of Peter’s dilemma.
” . . . Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me . . .”
Three times Jesus asked Peter the same question. Twice Peter responded, “You know that I love you.” But the third time, we see Peter adjusting “his socks,” as he surrenders in complete humility. Deeply saddened and distressed, he acknowledges that he doesn’t even know his own capacity to love fully.
” . . . He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Because Peter humbly lowering himself, Jesus granted him the honor of launching the infant church into the first century. Jesus brought Peter back to the basics of humility so that pride would never impede his spiritual growth or the effectiveness of his calling.
We find a capsulized version of Moses’ biography in Hebrews.
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”
Yet when God called him to lead His people out of slavery, Moses claimed no such credentials. In his younger years, Moses, like many of us, acted with pride and presumption. We see no evidence of either in his later years. In fact, this is written of him,
“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
What an amazing declaration. In the wilderness, Moses learned how to “put on his socks” and walk with complete humility. Because Moses willingly turned back to the basics, God used him powerfully.
No other person humbled themself to the degree that Jesus did. Leaving the throne room of Heaven, He chose the way of the cross — to be despised and rejected. He didn’t just learn the basics; He became the basics, taking on the form of humanity.
For man to humble himself before God is one thing; for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to humble himself to such a level is beyond comprehension.
“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
And because of such great obedience,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .”
What examples these men are for us all! The greater the level of humility, in receiving instruction and correction, the greater the level of honor bestowed.
To know their example and follow it are two different things. Often, the process for them and for us is painful. It is uncomfortable to discover we might have to relearn the right way to “put on our socks” — to do the very things we once thought we excelled at.
Like Peter, we might be asked to get out of the boat of familiarity and risk failing again. Like Moses, we might to called to speak up, face our greatest nemesis, and give God our radical “Yes!” Or in lesser ways, like Jesus, we might be asked to lay aside every privilege with a willingness to give even our lives for the sake of God and others.
One thing is assured. God calls us all to
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
This is a new season. The greatest Coach ever, Jesus Christ again teaches us the basics. Whether His instruction comes direct through the Bible, the Holy Spirit revelation, or if He chooses to speak through others, it’s time to go back to the basics. Let’s learn to “put on our socks.”