It is amazing to me to see the influence of athletes in our global culture today. Every year in early January and early February, the two most popular football games take center stage in the United States of America. This year, it has been particularly interesting because both the BCS National Championship game andthe Superbowl are packed with very talented men who are not only incredible athletes but are also very quick to give the credit for their success to the Lord.
I really do appreciate the inspiring examples that many of these athletes are setting because they really are legit, both on and off the field. Don't get me wrong, none of these guys are perfect, they are just forgiven by God and surrendered to Jesus. I am very grateful for men like Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Kurt Warner and others because they are living lives worth following. They are also very quick to realize that God has blessed them with all their abilities and success. This faith in Jesus and daily life practice is exactly what we are working hard to instill in the baseball players that cross our path.
This week, however, I was a part of an interesting dialogue with a friend who is not sure about my faith in Jesus. He asked me an interesting question: "Why do people praise God when things go well, but when things don't go well, they blame something or someone other than God?
To be really honest, I think my friend poses a really good question. I am trying to recall the last time I heard a player interviewed after a loss or an injury where that athlete gave immediate glory or credit to God in that moment. Don't get me wrong, in no way am I saying that players that follow Jesus throw away their faith when it does not go their way. I truly believe that the guys I have mentioned have overcome incredible adversity as athletes and the Lord has brought them through a lot of challenges. What I am saying is that many times genuine followers of Christ will give everything they have on the field or the court and will still lose the game. There are times prayers will be prayed and the answer will be "no" instead of "yes". There will be times unexpected injuries will take place, sometimes resulting in the ending an athlete’s career. There are even times that ultimate tragedies will occur resulting in the loss of life.
The reality is that in life, there are times when it is easy to give glory to the Lord. But there are also times when life will throw you a curve ball and it will cause you to question the Lord. I want you to understand that just because you are following Jesus, that does not mean you will be exempt from tragedy. The teachers who tell others that walking with Jesus will result in your health, wealth and prosperity are simply incorrect.
In spite of this, I wholeheartedly believe living your life following Christ is the best thing you can ever do. Today it is important we all understand that being obedient to Christ will not make us exempt from difficulties in life.
Over the years, I have had the privilege or misfortune, (I prefer the former) of being forced to deal with mysterious tragic events that have no easy answers. For example, Justin Sullivan’s apparent early death due to a set of tires falling off a truck, Lacy's apparent early death due to a random four-wheeler accident, Cody’s apparent early death due to a mysterious infection, Shawn’s early death due to a night of common drug use, just to name a few. In these instances, I had to embrace the responsibility of meeting with those families and standing in front of grieving crowds, attempting to offer an eternal and spiritual perspective that would hopefully lead them down the road of healing and understanding.
When my friend posed this question, he articulated my thoughts on many occasions throughout my life and ministry. I need to clarify before I go on that I am working hard to hold to a “biblical worldview”. A "biblical worldview" occurs when a person chooses to interpret the world through the lens of God's word and allows the word of God and the Spirit of God to influence all beliefs and life practices. This year, there have been followers of Christ who have overcome the opposition, made it to the finals, and won the championships. I am grateful for their example and their victories. However, we all have to keep in mind that there are also times when life just does not work out the way we planned. We have to remember that every one of us at some point will have to walk through some difficult times. I would like to wrap up with a few things that God's word and Justin's life has taught me over the years.
1. Bad things happen to good and bad people. Jesus prepared us for this in several passages of scripture. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus said: “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” For an agricultural society, many times the rains are good, sometimes they are bad; regardless, rain will come to everyone. You can also make the application to our lives: there are times that “rain” comes in our lives. Regardless of who you are, storms will come in life. The preachers who teach a theology that following God will result in you becoming healthy, wealthy and prosperous are misrepresenting a true biblical worldview and an understanding of suffering. One day we can ask John the Baptist how God helped him when he got his head cut off. I am personally looking forward to this discussion.
2. For me, the real miracle is not necessarily that God keeps bad things from happening to me. (Though I believe God leads us to pray and I believe God has answered specific prayers in my life.) But the miracle is that God is with me in my life and helps me navigate wisely through the good and bad things I face. When John recorded Jesus’ words in John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I believe this verse is a very insightful gift to us because Jesus reminds us that in the midst of difficult times, our interactive relationship with God will help us make it through any and every difficulty. Because I get to interact with God relationally, He brings perspective and comfort that goes beyond my finite understanding.
3. God’s perspective is different than mine, and when He acts in ways that I don’tunderstand, I am able to trust Him in spite of the specific circumstance. As I wrap up this mini-sermon, I want to mention two of my favorite quotes from Justin Sullivan. In his journal, he wrote, “There will come a day when we will all see God face to face. This is when we will understand things fully. When God asks me to believe something that is beyond belief, I decide if I will trust my five senses or have enough sense to believe in Him.” Personally for me, I am choosing to believe God and God’s word, even when it conflicts with my emotions, senses and even experiences. Another quote that is applicable to this discussion is, “Be thankful that life is not fair. If it were fair, we would not receive Christ’s forgiveness. Find satisfaction in what God has allowed us to do, don’t dwell on what we have not done.” I think Justin nailed it here because there are times that life is just not fair. Bad things happen. I believe God could stop all bad things from happening, but for some reason He doesn’t. On the other hand,there are times He does. In the midst of it all, I believe He is still good and His love for all of us compels me to complete devotion and service for the rest of my life.
Fri, January 30, 2009
by Chris Wall