"Where there is no tension there is no interest. If there is no cause for alarm, worry or wonder, there is no reason to watch. But if you give me a game that is decided on a buzzer beater, regardless of who is playing, you will always have my attention!" Anonymous
What do the 1980 Cleveland Browns, Russian school-teachers, a woman in labor, and God have in common? Keep reading and you will see...
1980 Cleveland Browns: For most Cleveland sports fans, the 1980 Browns will always be fondly remembered as the beloved "Kardiac Kids." They were given this moniker for the simple reason that 6 out of their 11 wins that year were heart-stopping affairs where they had to come from behind in the last few minutes to pull out a victory. As a rabid Browns fan, I can testify that each and every game that year turned out to be an emotional roller-coaster for me. For most of those games I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat filled with high levels of anxiety because for the first three quarters it seemed like the Browns had no chance of winning. And yet, sure enough, miraculous play after miraculous play, the Kardiac Kids would pull the proverbial "rabbit out of the hat" in the waning moments of the game. And in that moment, I was carried up and away into the heights of football glory and ecstasy. One thing is for sure about that season, even though sitting through most of the games were torturous, you couldn't take your eyes off the TV. You just HAD TO WATCH!
Russian School Teachers: For one whole year,1995-1996, my wife and I taught the Bible to public school teachers in the Russian town of Stavropol. At the beginning of the year we asked this question to over 50 teachers, "How many of you believe that God exists and Jesus is his Son?" The first results were meager; less than 20 percent thought the reality of God was even a slim possibility. And no wonder, they were all members of the Communist Party which demanded that atheism be the accepted worldview. It was quite an experience. Some days were a lot of fun, you would walk into class and they would treat you like American superstars-- other days it was like pulling teeth just to get out of bed. But then there were those days where it felt like my wife and I were under major spiritual attack: We found ourselves being mad and quick tempered with each other, we hated being in Russia, we were sick of eating Red Borscht soup, we complained about the snow, and the strong smell of garlic clung to everything . After awhile, we started noticing that on those terrible, horrible, no good very bad days, we ended up having amazing conversations and bible lessons with the Russian teachers. More times than not on those days, the gospel was clearly presented and the lights started going on in the minds of the Russian teachers. The problem for us is that while we were in the middle of it, we couldn't really see the amazing transformation in some of the teacher's lives. Trying to simply make it through the day gave us temporary blindness to what God was doing in the Russian's hearts. At the end of the year, we asked those same teachers the same question and the results were astounding: Over 80 percent believed that existence of God was a possibility and many even accepted the fact that Jesus was his Son.
Labor Pains: Simply put, every time my wife was to have a child it seemed like God made her wait until her stomach was about to burst. Her pregnancies never were easy, nor could they be described as seasons of sheer pleasure. On the contrary, the actual delivery of each baby never came soon enough - - 9 months has a funny way of seeming like an eternity. But you know, once the baby was delivered, the pain was rarely if ever discussed and remembered again.
So you wonder, how do these three things relate at all?
They are all pictures of how God operates in our life: He makes us wait, often through situations that seem overwhelming and even depressing; and then at the last second, he comes through in flying colors. Why does he work like this? The same reason the Browns were so exciting, Russia was so dark, and pregnancy is so stressful. Let me explain:
(1) If God made life easy we would rarely call on him or long for him to show up and rescue us. If I got everything I wanted now, I know I would quickly turn into an apathetic, bored soul. We all know that with quick and easy success comes arrogant presumption and a sense of entitlement. Spoiled children are made by peace-loving parents who give them everything they want without cost. God wants me to want him, and he often does this by asking me to wait. It sounds cruel, doesn't it? But it may just be the most loving thing he could do - -listen to the fourth stanza in Wesley's "Come Thou Fount":
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
We are prone to wander and leave God. We have the heart of a spoiled child - - and so the fetter he puts on our heart is our lack; and in my lack, I become bound to him because I desperately need him. Desperation is his gift of goodness to bring us back to him. My flesh hates this truth, but it is true nonetheless.
(2) When God shows up at our time of greatest need, his glory will be seen that much greater. If he always answered us right when we called, we would only take him for granted. Faith is not built on immediate gratification, but on pressing on when I don't see nor feel him. This is where most church people get it wrong: feeling is not faith, nor is it the fuel for faith. Need is. If I need him, I will reach out for him. And when he shows up...wow do I really see just how great he is! Have you ever had sensitive teeth? When your teeth are feeling fine, brushing is so mundane, and so is the toothpaste you use. But when your teeth became sensitive, there is nothing better than "Sensodyne" toothpaste. It becomes one of the greatest inventions known to man!
(3) The greatest endeavors in life take the most patience and endurance. The reason great things aren't often done for God is because great things require great sacrifice. Seeing Russians come to Christ, or seeing your new baby girl for the first time maybe the sweetest gifts ever. And much of that sweetness is because of the sacrifice that it cost to get there. Sacrifice proves significance and worth. In fact, this is precisely what the whole concept of worship means : the act of showing worth." Is God worth the patience and endurance he asks from you - - or are you quick to give up when times get tough?
I think we have wrongly attributed singing to true worship. Singing is easy, singing is fun, and I think singing is used more to please us than it is to please God. However, waiting for God through difficulty maybe the greatest act worship we could ever offer. Those who wait on God prove that he is of vital importance to them.
So, is life hard for you right now? It is for me. Are you going to wait...or pout? Are you going to hold on for God to show up at the last second, or give up right before the real action is about to begin? True worshipers wait. Will you?