It Can Make or Break You
“The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation;…”
Ever heard of Roy Riegels? He picked up a fumble during the 1929 Rose Bowl game and ran as fast as he could…toward the other team’s end zone. His mistake set up the winning touchdown for the opposition. A defining moment.
Ralph Branca may not be a household name, but many will never forget the pitch he threw in the last game of the 1951 National League playoffs.
Bobby Thompson eyed the pitch and pelted “the shot heard round the world,” a home run that won his team the pennant and probably the most famous homer in baseball history.
Chris Webber’s defining moment came when the young basketball star called time-out during the 1993 NCAA finals, only to discover his team had no time-outs remaining.
What happened to Roy Riegels? I don’t know. Perhaps he forgot his blunder, or went on to use it somehow to his advantage. But Ralph Branca turned his defining moment into a turning point. Today he is a major force in an organization called BAT, dedicated to assisting old ballplayers “who have suffered tragedies more permanent than dealing the wrong pitch at the wrong moment.” Chris Webber established Time Out Inc., a non-profit agency to “help kids who need a time out to get going again.” Life is ripe with defining moments…moments that can make us or break us, depending on our perspective. For the Christian there is the assurance that God’s plans for us are good, regardless of the difficulty of our present circumstances.
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~
God Knows the Journey
He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
Mark Twain once asked a baggage handler on a passenger train if the man thought his briefcase was strong enough to be placed in the baggage compartment. The baggage handler shrugged, took Twain’s case, and promptly hurled it to the pavement. “That, sir,” he said, “is what she’ll get in Philadelphia.” Then he picked it up and struck it four or five times against the side of the train. “And that,” he continued, “is what she’ll get in Chicago.” Finally he threw the case to the ground and stomped on it vigorously until the author’s books and papers spilled out, saying, “And that’s what she’ll get in Sioux City.” As Twain watched slack-jawed, the handler nodded at his now mangled case and advised, “If you’re going any farther than Sioux City, sir, I’d suggest you carry it on yourself!”
In a sense, Twain was lucky. He saw before he boarded the train what the journey ahead would entail. But the best most of us can hope to do is observe the journey of life from our fast-moving train and attempt—while the scenery whizzes past us—to make some half-ordered sense of it all. Life is full of contrasts and ripe with paradox. It contains full measures of trouble and triumph, of sadness and joy. But at its heart, there is a divine order. Although we long to see it in full and understand it completely, we cannot. We can only trust that God knows the journey, and that His view is bigger and more complete than our own.
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~
What To Do With Suffering
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
We’re all familiar with the cliché “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But for many of us that phrase is incomplete. It should continue, “the tough get going in the opposite direction!” So often we retreat from the tough times and question the plan of a God who would allow us to experience pain. But He is neither a wasteful Father, nor a cruel one. Suffering presents us with a personal challenge: we can either use our suffering as a bridge in building relationships with others, or we can view it as a wall that separates us from those around us. The choice is ours. James writes that suffering is actually productive. It produces endurance in us by stretching our faith.
Paul adds that it makes us useful to others, because the God of all comfort “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (II Corinthians 1:4) Maybe like Joseph, you are in the pit. Maybe you’re waiting in a dark, windowless place of suffering. Perhaps your personal “pit” is so deep and dark that it has caused you to question the very existence of God. If so, take heart in this basic biblical principle: those whom God would greatly use and bless will always experience a time of suffering. It is not possible to be used significantly by God in any area of endeavor without suffering. You don’t have to consider the suffering itself joy… but joy will be the end of what God will do with it if you trust Him.
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~
Whose Faithfulness is in Question?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Ever felt like God has forgotten you? Joseph must have. He was far from home, given up for dead by his family, framed for a crime he would rather have died than commit, and left to languish in prison. He must have wondered when God would ever rescue him. You see, it’s one thing to believe God knows our circumstances, but it’s another thing entirely to believe steadfastly that He will act on our behalf. The first involves faith in who He is. The second requires hope in what He will do. The apostle Paul said that hope in God is a choice that will not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5). It is an absolutely reasonable choice no matter what our circumstances because it is based on who He is.
Because God is righteous and holy, His actions will always be an expression of His character. There is an acronym used in the computer industry that is easy to spell and hard to say: WYSIWYG. It simply means “what you see is what you get.” Just so with God. He is not capricious or arbitrary; He is faithful and true. The turning point in Joseph’s dungeon experience came when he ceased to wait anxiously on the system and began to wait expectantly on God. His belief that God would act on his behalf was based on Joseph’s experiential knowledge. He knew that God had spared him from death at the hands of his brothers; that He had placed him in a position of influence in Potiphar’s household; that He had given him dreams as a child…and he trusted that the same care would continue. It was just a matter of time. The faithfulness in question is not His—it is ours! Will we wait expectantly and trust Him?
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~
The Rebellious Heart
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
The words “God gave them over” are among the most frightening in all of scripture. When Paul uses them, he means that God eventually allows men to pursue their desires with no interference from Him. The rebellious heart becomes so seared by sin that God’s kindness and mercy can no longer be felt.
The Niagara River is somewhat placid upstream. But as the river moves toward the falls, there is fast, rough water, then white water, then the deadly rush toward the brink. Just imagine for a moment that four teenage boys are in a fishing boat. They’re way upstream on Niagara, and the boat is held by a strong rope. Holding the other end of that rope is God. As the boys drift downstream, God says, “Well, they’re young. I’ll just go with them, and let out a little more rope.” They continue to float with the current, and God gives them more rope. Finally, they get to faster waters, and God tightens His hold on the rope with a warning: “Guys, it’s getting dangerous.” But they resist. “Hey, loosen up. We’re just having fun.” Then they come upon the white water, and God is still holding on. He knows the danger. “As long as I hold this rope,” He says, “there’s hope for you. I can pull you to safety before it’s too late.” But they refuse, and then curse God, insisting that He let go and get out of their way. “This is fast,” they say. “It’s thrilling! We don’t need your kind of help.” Then the inevitable happens. God begins to let the rope out little by little, more and more, until it sings through His hands and follows them over the falls. “God gave them over. God gave them over. God gave them over. It’s a terrifying proposition, is it not?
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~
Groaning Comes Before Glory
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Do you groan a lot? I do…especially when I get sick. A few years back we took our Schnauzer, Sonny, to get his ears clipped. The vet taped them upright and gave him medicine…but Sonny was in bad shape. That same day I came home with the flu. I wasn’t feeling so great myself. As I lay in bed, sick at my stomach, feverish, groaning, I heard Jo Beth talking sweetly to Sonny. “Oh, you’re a sweet boy,” she said. Jo Beth had put a little bell by my bed in case I needed something, so I began to ring it. “Joby, I need aspirin,” I wheezed. “Can you bring it?” Then, “Joby, I need some water. I’m thirsty.” For two days straight as Jo Beth nursed Sonny, I rang my bell. The next day some friends came over—to check on Sonny. My fever was up, I was having chills, and the whole neighborhood was worried about Sonny’s ears! So I decided to give him a run for his money. I took some tissues from the nightstand and carefully wrapped my ears in them, ringing my bell for all it was worth. When Jo Beth came in I told her I thought my ears were beginning to hurt, too, and she shook her head (and laughed a little) as she said, “Oh, Edwin.”
In this life, we groan. Things are not as they should be…not as they will be. But Paul said he considered the sufferings of this present world “not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed.” Did you get the order? Groaning before glory. But glory is a promise from God Himself!
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~
Choosing What is Good
“You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away.”
When Nikita Khrushchev made his first visit to America, he was escorted to a football game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. Khrushchev didn’t know a thing about football, but he took his seat in the stands and watched the entire game. When it was over, he was asked, “Mr. Khrushchev, what did you think of this great American pastime?” He truthfully responded, “Never have I seen such first-class passion and energy wasted on a third-rate cause.”
We spend so much energy, so much passion, so much emotion on third-rate causes. They’re not bad things. They’re just not the best things. Sports. Recreation. Entertainment. Travel. Furnishing our homes. Improving our appearance. What if we took a fraction of that energy and transferred it to diligent study of God’s Word, or witnessing, or teaching or discipling or serving in the Body of Christ, the church? What if our passion for souls exceeded our passion for self? What if we were as excited about what God is doing as about what we are acquiring? Anytime we choose activity over relationship, we are probably not choosing well. God values our devotion to Him more than service to a cause or accomplishments for the good of society. When Mary and Martha welcomed Jesus into their home, Martha was too busy with her homemaking preparations to delight in His presence…but Mary “chose the good part,” and was content to sit at the feet of Jesus for as long as He would tarry.
~ Dr. Edwin Young ~