Kuroko’s Basketball has always been, in part, an underdog story. No one expected Team Seirin to defeat the Generation of Miracles, but here they are, facing the final boss: Akashi Seijuro and the Rakuzan team. And they got here largely because of Kuroko, a small, seemingly unremarkable athlete.
At some point, I started taking Seirin’s determination for granted. Of course they have courage against high odds. They’re anime heroes. But in the most recent episode, a weaker Seirin player faced Akashi himself, and a viewer in the stands compared him to a chihuahua facing a lion. Then I realized how much I can learn from their courage, and their faith in their coach. How do I react when faced with a “lion”? When I search the Scripture, I realize it’s not a hypothetical question.
Way back in Kuroko’s Basketball‘s first season, we met Seirin’s newest basketball players. All five of these first-years shouted their basketball goals from the school’s rooftop (except Kuroko, who was cut off, but he found another way to make his goal known). Only Kuroko and Kagami became starters. The other three were too weak to do anything but support their team from the bench… until the Winter Championship.
[Spoiler Warning through episode 19, or 69, depending on your system]
First, Furihata subbed in during the semi-final against Kaijo (Kise’s team, episode 8). He shook and tripped. He seemed woefully under qualified, and he was only on the court for a short time, but his cautious play helped Seirin defeat Kaijo. Now, during the finals against Rakuzan, Furihata’s back. This time, it’s because Kuroko’s misdirection is completely impotent, and they need time to come up with a new game plan. The pressure must be incredible.
Furihata trips on his way to the court. In the stands, Aomine says it’s like a chihuahua facing a lion. He does help Seirin score, but the audience starts to think their coach, Riko, is a little cruel to send Furihata against Akashi.
Playing against Akashi drains Furihata quickly. During a timeout, he collapses. So Fukuda tells Riko to send him in followed by Kawahara.
What can these “chihuahuas” do against a “lion”? Why do they fight, when even their strongest teammates are outclassed?
I think it’s faith in their teammates, in Riko, and in the value of pure determination. Riko is on the edge of despair herself, but her athletes trust that she would not send them if they were truly useless. Is she cruel to send them against Akashi? Some in the audiences think so. But then again, they don’t have the same faith in Team Seirin. And it’s not like Furihata, Fukuda, and Kawahara have to face this “lion” by themselves.
God asks us to face “lions.” This can come in many forms: spiritual enemies, persecution, disabilities, tough relationships, tragedy, social injustice. Sometimes, it seems like more than we can handle… and sometimes, it is. Many of us have cried out, “Lord, I can’t keep this up! I have nothing left to give! I can barely get out of bed right now, let alone live and fight the way you ask me to!” Or, “How can I, or even a group of us, protect these people? What can we do?”
God knows we are weak, yet he has us face incredible trials. Is that cruel?
It would be cruel, if he sent us alone. It would be terrible, if our present failure meant our eternal failure. But we know that’s not the case.
When God sends his people against “lions,” he sends us with help: first, the Holy Spirit. God himself is with us, as our Counselor, Encourager, Savior, and more. Second, he sends us with each other, and with the Words he gave to the early believers. Christians encourage, teach, and pray for one another—in person when possible, and from a distance when not. In the mission field, we pick up where others leave off: sometimes, one Christian introduces someone to the gospel, another is present when they believe, and perhaps another is able to disciple the new believer in their first years. One of us may fall—die, doubt at a critical moment, or otherwise fall short. But as a team, we cannot fail, because God’s plan doesn’t ride on any one of us. Jesus Christ is the one who leads us to victory. We only need to have faith in him and follow him to victory, even if we feel as inadequate as chihuahuas.
This does not mean we should be foolhardy. We can’t slack off anymore than Furihata can when he faces Akashi. Lions are mentioned as enemies multiple times in the Bible, both literally and figuratively, and no one is encouraged to just slack off because God will take care of it.
For example: Peter describes Satan as a “prowling lion” in 1 Peter 5.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:6-10, ESV)
Peter is writing to Christians who encounter frightening persecution. But it’s not just physical suffering they need to watch out for; the devil wants their faith to be compromised. Peter wants them to have faith in God’s grace, care, and promises, rather than become anxious about it. He reminds them that they aren’t alone in their trials. Still, they must be ready to fight. We, too, must be watchful and ready. Our enemy still prowls, as much today and then. We have the courage to resist him, not because of our own strength, but because of Christ. We have faith that, even if we’re weak—spritually, physically, emotionally—God is mighier than the “lion” we face. He will watch over us. And he “will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us. We probably won’t experience the promised glory in this life, but it will come.
This doesn’t just apply to spiritual tribulation. A couple weeks ago, I explored what “believe in yourself” means in context of believing in God, and I think that relates. Faith in God equips us to face many kinds of trials, despite our fear. Whatever the outcome of our personal lion duel, it will not change our worth and our ultimate success. Being on God’s team gives us an even more certain victory than being on an anime hero’s team.
In Kuroko’s Basketball, many of the audience members think it’s pointless, even cruel, to pit the weaker first years against Akashi and his team. They’re chihuahuas against a lion. But these chihuahuas have seen what what their team can do. Their coach wouldn’t put them in without purpose. So Furihata, Fukuda, and Kawahara have the faith not only to play as instructed, but to say, “Send me, Coach!”
Seirin’s victory is uncertain. God’s victory is not. So I pray I’m able not only to face the lions God lets me face, but to say, “Send me!” when a new lion needs fighting.