No Shame in this Game

My local theater is showing a movie called “Call Sign Romeo.” It was completely filmed on the Outer Banks, taking advantage of our picturesque vistas and vibrant sunsets. It tells the story of a young high school wrestler who lives in a state of perpetual motion as he navigates the treacherous waters of school sports, big dreams, young romance, and his own sense of importance as he learns the value of “we over me.” His desire to one day become a Navy fighter pilot like his deceased father undergirds his ambition, which is often derailed by his arrogance and ego. This coming-of-age story is wonderfully told by a local doctor-turned-screenwriter, with a lot of local kids and adult actors filling the screen with great enthusiasm and sincerity.

Our hero learns the hard way that life is a team sport. He realizes that he will keep faltering and failing as long as he puts his faith only in himself while excluding the others around him. When he matures enough to put his team first and becomes a true leader, his own goals are met.

There is no shame in that game.

God calls all of us into this team sport called life together. We find ourselves on the wrestling mat over and over again, hoping to do better than we did in the last match.

We wrestle with temptation.

We wrestle with addiction.

We wrestle with entitlement and self-righteousness.

We wrestle with the need to be right.

We wrestle with depression, grief, and inertia.

What are you wrestling with today?

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about what happens when the constant wrestling with daily problems overwhelms us. Do we give in? Or do we endure?

Romans 5 (Common English Bible)

5 Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 

When we boast in our own accomplishments, we reap the results that ego-driven behavior usually produces. That kind of emptiness is not what Christ intends for us. But when we boast in the hope of God’s glory, we acknowledge his power and might over our circumstances and claim that in all things, he works for our good. Even our problems.

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

What problem is plaguing you today? Are you in trouble? Have you surrounded yourself with effective teammates? You can rest in the knowledge that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and all of these things lead you to HOPE. All you have to do is to yield to God. God has a future planned for you and it is a future with HOPE! (Jeremiah 29:11).

So, if you feel as though life is slamming you down and you’re trapped in a “Whizzer” (look it up!), hang on. God is on the mat with you and your faith in him will help you to prevail.

Hope in Glory by Michelle Robertson

Text Anxiety

Raise your hand if you experience recurrent dreams about taking a test in a class for which you have not prepared. I have both hands raised. My dream involves sitting down to take a college final for a class that I had registered for, but never attended. Somehow I forgot, and now I am staring at the final with no clue about what to write. I hear from my alumni friends that this type of test anxiety dream is common. I’m sorry to tell you that you never stop having test anxiety, even if your last college exam was many (many!) decades ago.

Tests often make us feel unprepared. Even when we did attend class and study hard, the possibility of failure looms large in our minds when we open up the exam and read the first question.

I once completely froze in seminary when my Systematic Theology final included a question that asked “Who is God, and how do you know?” I know the professor expected a lengthy response quoting the various theologians we had studied all semester. We were supposed to defend our thesis with solid theories and attributions. All my brain could conjure up was, “God is love. I know, because the Bible tells me so.” At the end of the hour, it was all I had. Luckily, I had a strong A going into the final and the professor could not argue with my position, so I ended up all right. But even writing about that moment makes my heart flutter!

James 1 (Common English Bible)


My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 

Tests as occasions for joy?? Speaking for myself, that is a big ask! Let’s read on…

After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 

This is a beautiful answer to our test anxiety issues. Tests produce endurance and endurance leads us to maturity, completeness, and WISDOM. And isn’t wisdom the goal? James contended that all we need to do is ask for wisdom and God will certainly give it. I should have asked for some when I took that final!

Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.

We know that doubt is often a gateway to learning, so what James may be suggesting is that we are not supposed to get stuck in our doubts. We should never doubt that God will answer us if we seek him. When our questioning minds lead us to further inquiry and wisdom-seeking, we come through it better prepared to understand. But stubbornly remaining in doubt can result in tossing and turning and never moving forward in our understanding.

Are you caught in a sea of doubt? Are you unsure of your faith? Does the idea of being tested in your relationship with God bring you anxiety? James invites us to persevere in our pursuit of wisdom as we grow in our knowledge of who we are, and Whose we are.

We are the children of God…of that, we can be sure. The rest will sort itself out if we continue to study and learn.

And guess what? You’ve already passed your finals…Jesus took them on your behalf.

Tossed and Turned by the Wind by Michelle Robertson

Endurance

Who remembers the television show Endurance? It was one of our favorite family programs. It was shown on the Discovery Kids cable network, and was a kind of “teenage Survivor” program. Kids would arrive on an exotic island and strategize and compete in physical and mental challenges for the ultimate prize of a trip to some amazing location like the Galápagos Islands. Through the season of challenges and hardships, a boy/girl team would eventually endure and take it all.

Life surely is a series of challenges and hardships, especially today. God calls us to endure it to obtain the prize that Jesus has already won for us. Take a look at this passage and note the progression of problems>trouble>endurance>character>hope:

Romans 5 (Common English Version)

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Hope never fails us. Paul once reminded us that faith, hope, and love endure. This passage promises us that the love of God has already been poured out in our hearts by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 

The worst thing that anyone could possibly endure is permanent and final separation from God. But this has been already been eliminated by Christ’s dying for us. This is how God showed his love for us! While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Love is the final product of endurance. Faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.

And so in love, we have separated ourselves from one another. In love, we aren’t gathering as a church or in communities so that our fragile members are protected. In love, we have canceled the world so that this hideous virus will end. In love, we submit to this new world order that will surely bear a price of loneliness, isolation, cabin fever, and stir-craziness to an extent we have never experienced before. But we do it, in love.

What to do? Go check on your neighbor (from 6 feet away.) Make a grocery run for an elderly friend (and leave it on their porch.) Call three people today who need to hear your voice. Do an online workout with your dog. Write a letter or send a card everyday until this is over.

READ A BOOK.

This season of endurance will surely produce character. I guarantee we will all look back at these weeks and months and realize we discovered new strengths in each other. And that newfound character will give birth to a new hope. We will realize how strong we are as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation. Life will never be the same because we will have endured something TOGETHER. Hang in there. And guess what? We are one day closer to the end of this thing.

This olive tree in Jerusalem has endured for centuries. Photo by Faye Gardner