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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Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, London, England, United Kingdom

Jet lag and God’s timetable

If you’ve never experienced real jet lag, I don’t know if I can adequately explain it. I thought I had prepared myself for it, but I don’t think you really know how you’re going to react to it until you go through it. My brother and I returned safely to the flatlands of Kansas from our week-and-a-half journey to Scotland and England Sunday late. Yesterday, I did nothing but rest and recover, and I managed six hours of good sleep plus a nap, which was great. I thought I’d do great today. Well, I barely slept at all last night. Not sure why. But the same thing happened over there. The first night, I slept fine. The second or third night, I didn’t sleep a wink. I’m very thankful I can work from home today.

So this morning as I was trying to get back into my routine of morning devotionals, I couldn’t help but think about God’s perspective on time. Six or seven hours of time difference or even twelve is nothing compared to the time difference we’re talking about with God.

Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, London, England, United Kingdom

Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, London, England, United Kingdom

Today’s verses are 2 Peter 3:8-9.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

A day is like a thousand years. Can you even imagine what that’s like? I can’t. To be able to know what’s going to happen a thousand years from now? To be able to know for sure what’s going to happen an hour from now is too much for me. I’m glad God is God and that He knows what He’s doing.

This is a good reminder for me because I like plans. I like outlines. I like knowing what’s coming before it gets here so I can get ready and think about how I’m going to respond. God doesn’t always allow us that opportunity; sometimes He expects us to jump when He says jump, even if we’re not sure where we’ll land, trusting that we will land on Him.

God’s thinking, His designs, His entire being, is so much bigger than we are. So I suppose this only makes sense. Would you want a God who was tied to time like we are? I wouldn’t. We can’t pick and choose what’s true about God and what’s not. God is who He is, and the trade-off for having a God bigger than time is surrendering to the idea that we’re not in control of our own lives.

God works on His own schedule. He works on His own time. He isn’t bound to our perspective of time. Maybe we think He’s being slow or dragging it out, but He’s not. Maybe we think He’s rushing it and pushing us too hard, but He’s not. He’s simply operating on a timetable that suits His plans, and it’s our job to keep up and hold on for the ride. He’s told us enough about Himself that we know His plans are best, but we aren’t always going to know the details. Part of me likes it that way because if I know the details, I’ll worry. But the other part of me–the planner, the scheduler, the thinker, the control freak–wants to be in on everything. But God knows me well enough to keep me in the dark, and for that I’m thankful.

So if you’re frustrated with God because He’s moving too fast for you or not moving fast enough, just take a deep breath and step back. Remember that God isn’t bound to your schedule; it should be the other way around.