Keep your faith-tank full.
As I write this, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are duking it out in Game Two of the NBA Finals. Most of the experts figure that last year’s champions, the Warriors, will handily win the series, and in the first game, three days ago, Golden State made a pretty emphatic statement, drubbing the Cavs by 22 points.
I’m no expert on basketball, but I’ve heard that even before that first game, the Warriors were prohibitive favorites. What I know for certain is that if the Cavaliers believe that there is no point, that they can’t win, that the die is cast, then they’re going to go down.
Two years ago, when the Royals improbably won the World Series–and the year before when they even more improbably reached the Series–the experts simply knew my favorite team wouldn’t win. The thing is that nobody seemed to convince the Royals of that. They just kept winning those games that they were supposed to lose. When there was no hope, they just won. Had they decided that they had no chance, then they would have been right.
Think about the toughest case of an unsaved person you know, the person who will resist, it seems, until the bitter end. Do you believe? Do you have the faith that God can do for that hard case what He has already done for you? Have you kept your faith?
Losing faith in sports is not terribly important. In our Christian walk it is almost everything.
- Have you lost your original faith? Do you have the sort of confidence in God’s power that you had when you were first saved?
- In what situations is it hardest for you to maintain your faith?
- Pray that God will show you the way to maintain your early-day faith?
Stay on course.
My wife and I had a long conversation recently that dealt with, among others, the verse that I’ve cited above. I can’t recall what provoked the discussion, but it boiled down to this. When God says, in this case, “I know the plans I have for you,” is He talking to you and to me or just to Jeremiah or just to Jeremiah’s people?
I know that we’d all like to claim that verse and its promise for ourselves. We all want to believe that God has big plans for us and that He knows what they are and they’re good and all that. But when I read the entire paragraph from which that verse comes, I have to admit that it is talking to somebody who isn’t me.
Am I waiting around for 70 years to be accomplished in Babylon? Is God going to collect me from the land where I’ve been in exile? Those are the plans He’s talking about here. This precise verse speaks to Jews who have been dead for centuries. That was my position when I discussed this with Penny.
On the other hand, if God knew the plans He had for those people, wouldn’t He know the plans He has for me? Should I expect that He has crummy plans for me? Is He maybe waiting to torment me and shoot down all my hopes? I don’t think so.
We’ve been set on a course. If we follow that course, good things will happen. That’s the promise running throughout the scripture.
- What do you believe God’s plans for you are? Are you cooperating with them?
- What evidence do you have that God’s plans are to prosper you rather than to harm you?
- Pray that God will reveal His plans for you and give you the endurance to follow them.
Fighting the good fight.
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously urged his father not to die too easily but rather to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” While Thomas is far from a Christian poet, there’s something we can learn from his admonition to “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
Our world seems each day to be dissolving into an ever bigger mess. Just this weekend, several misguided fellows went on a stabbing rampage in London, while a couple of weeks ago, Paris suffered a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. I could go on, and these are just the headline-type problems. Sometimes it seems as if the other team is winning the fight.
Maybe, in the worldly sense of things, the other team is winning the fight. While my reading of end times events is not completely confident and detailed, I think I can safely assert that some pretty terrible things will go down in that day. Do we expect that we won’t experience any of that downward spiral?
We know that Christ will triumph in the end, but we don’t know how much muck and awful we’ll have to face before that end comes. Sometimes we might be tempted to curl up in a ball and wait for the end, but that isn’t what God called us to do.
The odds may be long and the enemy abounding in the strength, but Christians have been called on to fight. We might find ourselves poured out like a drink offering before the return of Jesus, but that doesn’t matter. We’re called to fight, to rage against the dying of the light.
- What events in your life or the world around you tempt you to withdraw from the fight?
- When we fight against the negative direction of this world, what do we do battle against?
- Pray that God will help you to stay in the fight and not to mistake petty differences with others for a fight against evil.
The case of Mr. Mediocre
Over the past two days, we have looked at the difficulties of being or living with the all-star, five talent servant and the problem of the failure, one-talent servant.
I asked on Monday who this parable spoke too. Most people would say that the failure servant is the focus of the story. Pretty much nobody, on the other hand, gives a second thought to the second servant.
What’s the story with this guy? He is entrusted with less than half as much as his big-shot colleague and only twice as much as the failure. Clearly, the master did not trust Mr. Mediocre all that much.
The world is full of Mr. Mediocre figures. Honestly, the church of Jesus could not function without Mr. Mediocre. That’s the person who takes up the offering and records the attendance and helps prepare VBS craft materials and on and on.
But Mr. Mediocre does not get the same level of acclaim as the All-Star. He hears the wonderful words, “good and faithful servant,” but when the Failure crashes and burns, does Mr. Mediocre see any of that suddenly available talent?
Mr. Mediocre does not get a lot of acclaim from the world, but he should be satisfied with the approval of a grateful master.
- Do you identify with Mr. Mediocre? In what ways?
- In what ways do you show appreciation for the Mediocre servants in your life?
- Ask God to help you to be completely satisfied with his approval.
The case of the failure servant
Yesterday we looked at the All-Star, but now our attention shifts to the other end of the story’s spectrum. The third servant received a single talent and promptly buried it.
What’s noteworthy to me about this character is that he gets cast into the outer darkness, presumably on a permanent basis, not for something awful he did. This guy didn’t murder anybody or rob orphans or knock little old ladies over in the street. He didn’t really break any of the ten commandments, did he? I’m not even sure he put another god before the true one.
What Mr. Failure did was take two hundred pounds of silver (a talent in Israel) from his master and do nothing with it. He didn’t go out and spend his silver on candy. He didn’t go into the drug trade with that money. He didn’t use it to sacrifice to Baal. He didn’t even lose it. Instead, he just took care of it and then brought it back to the master.
God’s not interested in those who do nothing. He doesn’t see the failure to do wrong to be a positive thing. It’s not even a neutral thing.
- In what ways are you guilty of taking what God has given you and failing to use it?
- Can you help any of the talent-hiders you know to open themselves to God’s direction.
- Pray that God will help you to identify the talents God has given you that you have hidden.