The victor’s timetable and my personal agenda

olympic-games-1608127_1280I’m not a big sports fan. Never have been. Something about being naturally clumsy and the least competitive person on the planet. But, oddly enough, I do enjoy watching the Olympics. This year was quite a year for Team USA, and not just for our swimming (that Katie Ledecky, man) and gymnastics teams.

We’ve got over 100 medals, around 40 of which are gold. That’s outrageous. Granted, the U.S. had more than 500 athletes competing this year. That makes a difference. But that doesn’t change how cool it is to get to hear the national anthem so many times in so many different sports.

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles

What I find most interesting is that after I watch the U.S. win at the Olympics, I often feel like a champion. But the athletes are champions. They worked hard. They sacrificed. They risked everything they had invested to put their skills to the test against the top athletes in the world, and they came out on top. They deserve the medals they wear. So how does that translate into me feeling like a winner?

Every Team USA athlete who competed in the Olympics this year was a representative of his or her country. He or she went to the Olympics to represent me (broadly speaking). So when he or she wins, America wins. I win. We send the best of our best (and this year, I feel like I can actually say our best truly are the best and not just in their physical skill but in their character as well), and when they win, we get to claim the victory with them, even though they’re the ones who did the work.

Faith works the same way

That’s basically what God did. There was a battle that needed to be won, and all our futures hung in the balance. So He sent His best—His only Son—to fight for us, to take our place and our punishments. And Jesus won. So because He won, we all won (Romans 8:37). Or, at least, we all have the opportunity to win. There is the matter of choosing a side, of course.

It’s done. It’s over. The war is finished, and the victory is God’s, and by extension ours, if you are a follower of Christ. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still face daily battles.

All those Olympic athletes had to come back to the real world after Rio. They had to leave behind the battle fields they were used to and forge into an unknown future, possibly in areas and fields they know little about. Even the G.O.A.T. has to pay bills.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Even though it feels like we’re the ones fighting, victory is always God’s.[/su_pullquote]

Every day is still a battle. But does that mean we’re on our own? Never. (Deuteronomy 31:8) God says over and over again that He’ll never leave us. He’ll never make us face our battles alone. But there’s something we’ve got to remember, folks. Even though it feels like we’re the ones fighting, victory is always God’s.

He gives us the strength to face the challenges of the day. He gives us the energy to keep fighting when we feel like we want to quit. He helps us stand up when we fall down, and He gives us a reason to keep pushing long after our personal motivation has run dry. He’s the only one big enough to turn the tide of a battle in His favor.

So because victory is His, that means we have to wait for Him to achieve it.

Victory doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t win an Olympic medal on a whim or by accident. Competing in the Olympics takes years of practice and hard work, strategy and intense concentration, and fierce, intentional choices. Do you think winning a battle is different? It takes time. It takes effort. It takes dedication, passion, and, yes, sometimes even failure. Or maybe it just feels like failure, because often failure is just another opportunity to rise to the challenge.

Because of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Tianna Bartoletta, Amanda Elmore, Virginia Thrasher, Helen Maroulis, Connor Fields, Brady Ellison, David Boudia, Daryl Homer, and so many others who won a medal (or medals) at Rio, I can say I am a citizen of a winning country. I belong to a nation that allows people to chase their dreams, to work hard to make their dreams a reality. And even though I’ve never swam a competitive lap in my life, never ran any distance, never shot with any accuracy, and only mastered the belly flop as a form of diving, I get to enjoy victory because all those people and others achieved it for me.

micah7-7Because of Jesus, I’m a citizen of Heaven. I’m a child of God, with free access to His throne, invited to approach Him whenever I need Him. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have to fear what I don’t understand. Jesus won my battles for me.

But Michael Phelps didn’t swim faster because I asked Him to. Virginia Thrasher didn’t hit those targets with her air rifle because I told her it was time. All of those athletes competed at their own speed, their own rates, and according to their own plans. So why do I think Jesus is going to be any different?

Victory isn’t mine. It’s His. And that means I have to wait for His timing instead of pushing my own agenda.

[su_pullquote]Victory isn’t mine. It’s His. And that means I have to wait for His timing instead of pushing my own agenda.[/su_pullquote]

I don’t like waiting. Once I know the direction I’m pointed, I want to forge ahead without looking back. And while that may be an admirable trait at times, when victory isn’t up to me, that sort of impatience can spell disaster.

We all have a choice when it comes to obtaining victory, even if we’re not the ones fighting for it. You can try to fight for yourself, sure. But that will be like a regular human being trying to race Michael Phelps in a pool. You can try to win, but you aren’t going to. Sorry to break it to you, folks, but that’s just not going to happen.

So if you can’t fight for yourself, you have to fall back on the other option. You have to let someone else fight for you. And that means you have to wait for them to make a move. Waiting isn’t fun, but if the person you’re cheering for has your best interests in mind, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me. Micah 7:7

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Do you suppose tortoises are good at math?

I remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. I think I remember my teachers (probably Mom) telling me that I didn’t need to rush through my math assignments, that I should take my time and do them correctly and stop trying to compete with my genius nerd-face little brother. And I genuinely tried to listen, but it was so hard not to rush when I wanted to beat him so badly. Big sister pride was at stake, after all. I was older than he was and should have been able to finish my math assignments more quickly and more accurately than him.

Right. Those of you who know my brother know he’s faster and more effecient than some calculators.

Eventually I gave up trying to beat him because I knew his talent with numbers was beyond me. I never stopped learning, but I stopped trying to beat him. There’s a big difference there.

I finally got to the point where I understood I wasn’t trying to beat him because I was better; I was trying to beat him becuase I thought I was better.

Similarly in the story of the tortoise and the hare, the hare didn’t rush through the whole race (only to lose in the end) becuase he was better at racing than the tortoise was; he did it because he simply thought he was better than the tortoise and could afford to take a few rest breaks. What happened? The hare lost; the tortoise won.

And what happened to me? I stopped trying to excel in an area where I had no gift and focused instead on the gift I had been given (writing) and now I’m actually using those gifts on a daily basis.

This random analogy is what came to me when I read the verse for today.

James 4:10

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

 James is one of those Books in the Bible that hits hard. James doesn’t pull his punches, and if you can really get the meat of what he’s talking about, most of the book will make you cringe. (It’s a short, easy read; I’d recommend it.) But this verse doesn’t really seem to make a whole lot of sense at first blush. It goes against everything we are taught.

Make progress in your life through being humble. What sense does that make?

When you’re at work you’re supposed to be cutthroat and savage, aren’t you? When you’re out in the world, you have to fight for every scrap you can get, every penny you can get, every inch you can get. You’re supposed to be merciless, and when you’re all done getting ahead of everyone else, you can pat yourself on the back because you’ve done right by yourself. Isn’t that what we’re taught? Isn’t that what’s expected of us? To look out for number one?

Well, that’s not what I get from this verse. This verse says to be humble. Be humble before God and understand that everything you have, He gave you — and He can just as easily take it away. Be humble. Live your life the way He commands. And He will see to it that you are taken care of because that’s what He does.

Stop trying to run your race better and faster than your brothers and sisters and instead stop to help the ones who fall down.

When you get a chance to do something nice for somebody, do it. It’s a good reminder that God loves them as much as He loves you.

Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

And above all else, don’t take credit for anything in your life. Maybe you can sit there and point out all the good things you have and explain how you worked to get them, but I can tell you right now that I don’t deserve any of the blessings I have. I’m not a good enough person to have earned my wonderful family or my awesome job or my great church (I’m running out of modifiers); God has given me everything I have and I give Him the credit for it.

Be humble. Realize that you aren’t better than everyone else. You’re different and God made you that way, so stop trying to compete against people you aren’t gifted to compete against. Why do you need to win anyway? To prove something?

If you’re trying to prove something, who are you trying to prove it to? The world? Your family? Your friends? Yourself?

What good will that do? Yes, maybe you’ll get some respect. And maybe you’ll gain some independence. But what good will it do you?

It’s worth thinking about.

And take your time. There are plenty of miles left in the race and there’s no need to rush.