Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Difference a Mentor Can Make

It was back in 1971 that I moved to Southern California at the age of 19 to enroll as a biblical studies major at Biola College. I didn't know it at the time, but the Lord was calling me into the ministry of full-time teaching. My arrival in California happened to coincide with the rise to fame of the head basketball coach at UCLA. His was soon a household name as people watched with amazement as he won championship after championship. It was called the Wooden Touch. He was a great coach but an even greater human being. He won 88 straight games between 1971 and 1974 yet his success never went to his head. Quiet as a March snow, he taught his players as much about the game of life as the game of basketball. Of all the axioms he was famous for -- "discipline yourself so that others don't have to," "never lie," "earn the right to be confident," "treat your opponents with respect" -- perhaps my favorite was, "Never score without acknowledging a teammate."

When I got to Biola, my goal was to play basketball under head coach Lyons. I hoped he would mentor me even as I hit the books hard. I soon realized, however, that I couldn't excel at both sports and academics. I had to make a choice. In high school I had never applied myself to my studies. My life consisted of surfing, volleyball, and basketball. But college was different. To succeed, I'd have to change. I'd have to learn how to become a student. I knew it would be like turning the Queen Mary around with a teaspoon, but I was determined to make it work. Dr. Harry Sturz, Biola's Greek prof, became my teacher, my mentor, and eventually my colleague at Biola. Like John Wooden, Harry Sturz was eminently gifted but remarkably unassuming. He never knew how great he was. He never had a bad word to say about Westcott and Hort or Bruce Metzger. But in his unassuming greatness he made an indelible impact on my life. 

I'd like you to know that. I'd like you to know that his influence was THE turning point in my life. If he were here today I would write him and tell him so. 

Regardless of how much you learn or however greatly the Lord blesses your life and ministry, I hope you will never forget the words of Coach Wooden:

"Never score without acknowledging a teammate."