Steph Curry is currently the best basketball player living on planet earth.
There are people that may argue that Lebron is currently better or Jordan was historically better, but a look at the raw numbers tell you why he’s the first player ever to be unanimously chosen as league MVP (the second year in a row he’s won the award).
Curry is the first NBA player ever to average more than 30 points a game while playing less than 35 minutes a game (he’d often sit out at the end of games because they were blowouts). He recently led his team to the best regular season in NBA history, breaking a record held by Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. He hit 402 three pointers in the regular season. The previous all-time record was 286.
In other words, he is really, really good.
And, beyond the numbers, watching his ability to score—often against opponents who are bigger and stronger than he—with such ease and grace, is often like watching a scripted Harlem Globetrotters game.
But, there’s one other thing that people know about Steph Curry beyond his now-legendary ability to put a ball through a basketball hoop: Steph Curry is an outspoken Christian.
Even his shoes—which are the best-selling shoes of any current NBA player—bear testament to his faith. Each one says, “I can do all things,” a reference to Philippians 4:13 on the tongue.
Even before the he signed with Under Armor—who created his best-selling, signature shoe—Curry would write the phrase on his Nike’s by hand.
But, unlike some athletes and celebrities known for their faith, Curry isn’t all that polarizing of a culture figure. The notoriety he’s gained through his on-the-court achievements has garnered him the respect of people from a variety of perspectives.
Curry recently told FCA Magazine,
I’m not a guy who’s going to be trying to bash people over the head with the Bible. I want people to know when they see me play that something is different, that I play for something different, and whether I’m talking about it [or not], I just hope by the way I carry myself and by the way I play the game, they can see there’s something different about that guy. And they find out what it is and then they know. It’s part of who I am.
His level of success—and the massive platform he now has to live as an example of what the Christian faith looks like—is something that countless people dream about achieving.
In Christian circles, there are people who feel called to occupy a platform—in business, writing, art, music, preaching or any number of areas—that they use to show people what a genuine, and life-changing relationship with Christ can look like.
The rise of Steph Curry can teach us something about calling, purpose and a “platform”: Just because you’re called, doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to earn it.
Working on Purpose
There’s a video on YouTube that went viral back in 2014. It features the voice of a trainer recounting his own encounter with a then-16-year-old future MVP at a basketball camp years ago.
The trainer says Steph Curry was one of the hardest working individuals he’d ever seen.
Yes, he is extremely naturally talented (both of his parents are incredible athletes). Yes, he is a phenomenal athlete himself (at just 6’3, he can do stuff like this).
But, there are a lot of gifted athletes out there. There’s only one guy who’s made more than 400 3s in a single season.
Curry’s work ethic—and even his pre-game routine—is the stuff of legends.
He told FCA,
I’ve always been a believer that the Lord has put whatever talent in you, [and] whatever gift He has put in you, He wants you to get the most out of that. He wants you to succeed; He wants you to pursue and work and be passionate about it. It’s not about getting any of the glory for yourself; it’s all for His [glory]. That’s where you have to keep perspective. Work at it and do all you can so you get the most out of yourself, but do it for His will.
Millennials are often tagged with the label “entitled,” and that’s not always fair. But, for Christians—especially those who tend toward a sense of ambition and optimism—it’s easy to conflate “purpose” with “destiny.”
We’re not owed anything.
God can give us each a purpose—something we feel called to achieve, ultimately for his glory, as Curry notes—but he’s not a puppet master. We still have free will. And sometimes, that free will means working harder than everyone else to get to where we need to be.
Purpose isn’t about being owed something from God that he will just drop on our laps. But, it can be a glimpse of what we are capable of if we trust God and put in the work.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. The short version is this: A property owner left town and gave his servants each “talents” (or, as we understand it, money). When he returned, he found that two of the servants went out, and worked to trade them to make more money. The master praised their efforts when he returned, saying, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”
The other servant buried his talents, doing nothing with them. He told the master, “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” The master responds by taking what he had given the servant and harshly punishing him.
Using our actual talents for God to achieve his purpose takes actual effort on our behalf. Maybe we “bury” them because we’re afraid to step out and take risks. Maybe we don’t want to put in the hard work necessary to reach our goals. Maybe we feel entitled to something, that in reality, can only be ours if we’re willing to use what we’ve been given to earn it.
Doing All Things
The Proverbs contain a pretty clear blueprint for how to achieve your purpose:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We’re asked to trust God—even when His calling on our lives seems unlikely. And submit to him, even if we don’t want to.
Maybe you feel called to write a best-seller, even though you’ve never published anything. Maybe you want to start a social-justice oriented business, even though you have no money. Maybe you want to help people change their lives even though yours currently isn’t going so well.
Maybe you’re an undersized shooting guard who wants to play in the NBA, even though no major college will even offer you a scholarship.
We’re called to trust, even when achieving our purpose seems impossible. It’s a kind of trust not based on circumstance. But one based on being willing to put in the work and effort needed to get there, because in the end, we know we can do all things.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.