Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Winners and Losers

Enduring for the prize.
It happens every year I’m told, this March Madness thing.  I looked up and saw the aftermath on TV.  It involved tears, hugs and that proverbial agony of defeat, amid red and blue uniforms.  Apparently it starts early in the basketball season, heightens as the season nears its end, and finishes with an ultimate victorious team, and many non-victorious teams by the wayside.  My husband, who was actually watching, confirmed it was “the blue team” who won the prize this year, I think he called them “Duke”.   According to the headlines today, it was “Blue Heaven”.

While I only saw the sobs of the finale, apparently there is activity prior to the last game.  It seems that long before the final game, there are brackets for this March Madness on which people try to guess which teams will be eliminated and which will make it through to the end.   Of course, at this starting point they don’t yet know the outcome, but based upon past performance – record, if you will – they try to anticipate the future performance of their chosen teams, and record their predictions for future bragging rights.  Through this process many, many watch from the sidelines and on media reports to follow the status of their favorites.  The games are hard fought, often have injuries that sideline players, but each player strives to give their very best efforts for the cause of their team, until the last game proves one winner.  Congratulations!  You won the prize “blue team”!

Our lives follow much the same pattern.  As Christians, we commit to be part of a team (the Jesus team) working toward a common goal – becoming more like Him, and showing and leading others to the knowledge of Him.  We have a whole team of both new and experienced members, who are committed and working together.

Preparation is key.  You will be assigned a position based upon your abilities, but you must attend practice.  You must be conditioned to develop the strength necessary for the position.  Don’t wait until the final to start training.  Your coach (the Holy Spirit) will give you and teach you exactly what you need to accomplish your task.

You must learn and obey the rules.  You will be disqualified if you don’t.  Ignorance of a rule will not be an excuse to defer the referees from administering the appropriate consequence.  Listen to your coach.  Have godly mentors around you who will guide you in making proper decisions.  STUDY the Bible; 1) in order to find and know the will of God, and  2) so that you will not be deceived.

You will encounter opposition.  There will be those who want to defeat, deceive, discourage and distract you. Tune them out and listen to the coach.  He sees the bigger picture, and knows your strengths and weaknesses.  He will always be there for you.  He is far greater than your opposition, and has your best interest at heart – ALWAYS.

You are not alone.  There are many in the stands watching.  Therefore;
be careful to listen to and follow the instructions from the coach,
be an example of endurance and obedience to your team mates,
be careful to not hurt the team,
be a good representative of your team to the spectators, and
be continually cheering on the other team members. 

Hang on.  There is a prize at the end.  Don’t give up. The bracket has been finalized.  The Jesus team wins.  If you are a part of the team, you have been equipped and have a job to do.  Therefore, endure and persevere to the end.  Paul spoke of pressing on toward the goal line as in crossing the finish line of a foot race.  When we focus on the finish line and the prize it is much easier to persevere through the training, the “boos”, the fatigue and the distractions, especially when we already KNOW who wins!

The clock is ticking.  If you haven’t found your coach, and your place of service, there is still time.  The clock is ticking, however.  The time to follow Jesus is today, before the final buzzer sounds.  After that, a heavenly prize awaits for the Jesus team, and punishments await the others.  The results will be final and eternal.  At the end there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth for the losers, and great rejoicing for the winners who persevered. 
Father how I pray for those in the midst of the battle now.  I pray their persecution will serve to make them even stronger for Your service, and of great encouragement to those who are on the sidelines, waiting for their turn.  How thankful I am for those who have gone before me, such as Abraham - who showed such great faith.  Help us to have the faith of Abraham evidenced by our obedience.  For all those reading this and still uncommitted, I pray You will show them Your desire and plan for their lives.  We thank You for being here with us in every situation, to show us the way.