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

Advertisements

Sometimes we need the storms

Sometimes it feels like we’re living under a cloud, doesn’t it? Life just isn’t working out the way you want it to. Sure, there are days when the sun shines and life is bright. There are days when you feel invincible. But what about the days when it feels like the rain won’t stop falling?

It’s on those days when the bad news keeps coming. Minute after minute, hour after hour, the bad news doesn’t let up. You owe more on your taxes than you thought. Your car is broken. Your child is sick. The storm damage is extensive. Whatever situation you’re in, doesn’t it seem that bad news never shows up on the happy days? No, it all has to unload on us at once, on the days when we’re already feeling like we’ve fallen in the mud.

But one thing I’ve learned about God is that He never allows anything to happen in our lives that He won’t turn into something beautiful.

stormclouds_treeToday’s verse is Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

There are days when life feels random, like all the little bits and pieces of life are scattered around without meaning or purpose. And I’m not sure if that will ever change for us because we’re so limited in what we can see. But if you’ve lived long enough to look back over your life, you can start to see the picture forming from the fragments you thought were unrelated.

And then, sometimes, God gives you a glimpse of just how much He cares. I mean, we all know He cares. He’s God. That’s kind of what He does. But there’ s a difference between caring and being intimately involved in the intricate workings of your personal life. It’s one thing to call you a son or daughter, but God goes beyond that and treats us like His children too.

It’s one thing to recognize that God made the sunrise. It’s something else to understand that He arranged events in your life today to help you accomplish something. That’s two different levels of caring.

People know they’re meant for more than this life. That’s what the verse means. We all have this inborn understanding that there’s more to life than just what we can see. As we get older and let the darkness of our world cloud our perspective, we lose sight of it. Or we give into the lies of our culture that say God doesn’t care. But deep, deep down inside, we all know that we’re meant for something more. That’s what it means to have eternity in your heart.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes, especially in the dark moments of life, that God cares so much about us. Because if He cared, He wouldn’t let us go through dark times, right? But sometimes we need the storms.

We need to remember that we aren’t in control. We need to remember who sustains us. We need to remember who protects us. And we need to let go of our delusions that success comes from our own performance.

Maybe you’re in an ugly situation right now, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope. But you know what? God will make everything beautiful in His time. Not in our time, because we don’t understand time. Not like God does.

God is the only One in existence with the power to take the ugly and make it beautiful. He can transform anyone and anything, but we’ve got to get out of the way.