Keep Your Eye on the Ball

2 Chronicles 19-23

2 Chronicles 20 1 NIV sgl

If you have been to any youth ballfield, the mantra of even the most uninformed coach or parent to his/her child in most all situations is “keep your eye on the ball.”  Whether it is baseball, soccer, football, tennis, or basketball, knowing where the ball is at any given point in a game is the greatest predictor of success and will result in the highest probability of a favorable outcome.  In order to strike, kick, tackle, return, or rebound, you have to know where the ball is.  It seems simple enough; yet, anyone who plays any number of the ball-including sports at any level suffers from the occasional mishap that begins with losing sight of the most important object to the game.  Why?  We get scared.  We’re thinking about our next move.  We get caught up in the emotion.  Or it might simply get lost in the lights.

 

“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” –   1 Chronicles 20:9,11b

 

In today’s reading, Jehoshaphat gives us an example of what it looks like to keep our eyes in the most important place.  Not all of us play sports, and if we do, we most certainly may not play them well (present company included), but we all have a part to play in the will of God.  Without your eyes on the Father, you might still have a bit of fun, but there is no purpose in the participation of it all.  You are simply existing, a benchwarmer staring off into the distance, oblivious to the wonderful plan that God has for your life.  Yet, keeping our gaze affixed to Him isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.  Even the most professional ballplayers have blunders. Here are a few reminders of how to readjust our focus, to make sure it is in the right place, no matter what “level” we are playing at:

 

To keep your eyes on God, let Him take away the worry.

 

There is a ton of uncertainty in the air right now.  Disease, political unrest, economies, natural disaster, not to mention all of the “typical” fears we have about things like acceptance and loss.  Jehoshaphat had a vast army approaching, yet he remembered that God had promised Israel and Judah the land they possessed. Remind yourself of the simple yet immense promises of God – He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), We know all things work together for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), Do not fear, for I am with you always (Isaiah 40:1; Matt 28:20). The promises purge us of the pressure to take the entire crushing yoke upon ourselves and hand it over to God.  In exchange He will give us peace in the restless situations (John 14:27).

 

To keep your eyes on God, remember He has planned the present.

 

One of the greatest defensive failings in baseball is thinking about throwing the ball before you have ever fielded it.  Time and time again, the baseball zips “through the wickets” or is fumbled as it is being removed from the glove and falls flatly to the ground.  Jehoshaphat could have spent his time sending messengers to form alliances.  He could have armed the remaining men, women, and children to increase the size of his army. He could have sent out terms of surrender to try to salvage the lives of his people.  He didn’t do any of this.  He kept the most important thing as the most important thing; his gaze never faltered. He didn’t “throw the ball” before He fielded God’s response (as we saw yesterday).  Don’t forget to serve God now because there is a bigger, better plan you have made to serve Him down the road.  He is the God of tomorrow, but before then, the God of today.  Seek first the Kingdom of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:33,34). He may call us to things that inconvenience, disrupt, or even abort the plans we have made down the road, but when those days come, or if they don’t, He has planned those days too.

 

To keep your eyes on God, make him the judge.

 

One of the most frustrating things is a competitor who doesn’t play fairly or feeling we are the victim of unjust treatment.  What’s even more frustrating is an umpire or referee who fails to see it or worse, lets it persist.  Our God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us; He sees the struggle.  He isn’t deaf; He hears the petition.  When we want to take matters into our own hands, be reminded that you too are a trespasser but also an unfair recipient of favored treatment. This more than anything, should make us compassionate and ready to forgive others.  We will be called to be God’s facilitator of forgiveness many times more than we will be judicator of justice.  Jehoshaphat made the appeal, but was also seemingly ready for whatever answer came his way. We must trust God, let Him be the judge, and maybe the hardest thing, be ready, like Jesus, to be dealt injustice, yet still forgive for the sake of the Gospel and our message.

 

To keep your eyes on God, eliminate the distractions.

 

The lights can be blinding.  The hecklers can be loud.  The teams’ morale can be affecting you. Even seemingly good things like family and church can provide an incorrect context of focus if not filtered through the lens of their role in God.  When we work, provide, heal, love, carry on, feed, protest, or serve, constantly remind yourself you are doing it all for the Lord.  Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat’s army; worship God while you are in the battle (1 Chronicles 20:22).  It would be challenging to give into your pride when you sing “Oh Spirit come make us humble…” It would be tough to look at inappropriate material when you sing “We turn our eyes from evil things…” It would be difficult to spend Sunday morning after Sunday morning with your family at the ballfield while singing “Oh Lord, we cast down our idols.” Filling our mouth with praise, worship, and prayer prevents anything else from slipping out.  The same could be said of our eyes, ears, hands, and most importantly, minds.  Engage God with everything you have, and you will be ready and attuned to His movement no matter where on the field He takes you.

 

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+19-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the short book of the “minor” prophet Obadiah and Psalm 82-83 as we continue keeping our eye on the Father through our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

4 Benefits for Christians in This Age

 

Out in the world today, we see a lot of bold claims made by companies. They promise you weight loss, happiness, wealth, status, and anything else that you can think up. What is their purpose in making these bold claims? They want your money. Many of the times the claims are flat out lies and at best they deliver only a fraction of what was promised. What about Christianity? Does the Bible make big claims like companies do?

Personally, I think the Bible makes a lot of claims about those who put their faith in God. But the logical follow up question to that statement is  – are they true? So in this blog post I want to set out to show you four claims the Bible makes about the benefits a Christian receives in this age. The fact that we are talking about this age is important. Obviously a Christian has a major benefit in the age to come with eternal life and the kingdom. However, I want to focus on this life and how being a Christian makes our lives better, now. The four benefits to being a Christian are peace, purpose, perspective, and people.

Peace is a commodity of which the world is in short order. It seems that mental illness is all over the news with illnesses like depression and anxiety sweeping over our nation. Christianity promises to those who put their faith in God that they can find peace. Look at Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul, talking to the people of Philippi, is saying that if we hand over our anxiety to God through prayer and thanksgiving in return we will receive peace that surpasses all comprehension. I love how Paul makes the point to say that this peace will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. I think Christianity has the best solution for finding peace in this life.

1 Peter 2 9

Purpose is an elusive things that some people spend their whole lives searching out. I truly think that people thrive the most when they are living a life after the purpose for which God created them. If you are looking for purpose look at 1 Peter 2:9-10 which says, “9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” First look at verse 10 where it says, “you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God”. In other words, once you had no identity and no purpose but now you are the people of God and you have a purpose. The purpose statement is at the end of verse 9, “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. I think when we are giving the good news to people, and that is our driving purpose, we find fulfillment with our lives. What could be better than helping someone change their life forever?

Perspective can be a tricky thing to find, especially perspective that is trustworthy and true. Let’s talk about the world’s perspective on one of the most difficult things we deal with in life, death. To the world, death is crushing, scary, oppressive, breaking, and most of all final. The world has no hope when it comes to death but the Bible offers a better perspective on death. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says, “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” If you are a Christian, you are offered a perspective on death that doesn’t include fear but instead centers on hope. Don’t get me wrong, death is still a painful and difficult event but it isn’t crushing for Christians. To me, 1 Thessalonians 4 is a clarifying and liberating passage. Because of the Bible I am freed from the fear of death. Christianity offers us a better perspective on death and a whole multitude of other things.

People, who doesn’t want a people to call their own? Community is an essential part of human flourishing and Christians absolutely crush the competition when it comes to community. Look at what Jesus says in Mark 10:29-30, “29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.’” In this present age we will receive 100 times the family that we currently have. This doesn’t mean that all of a sudden our family multiples by 100. What it means is that those who are Christians become our family. You are probably familiar with the term family of God. It is short hand for the community of believers that form one large family all around the world. When I walk into church I know that those people have my back, they love me, they support me, and they are my family.

Maybe now you are asking how can I be sure that these claims actually hold up under pressure? Are these claims made by the Bible like the false claims made by big companies? If you are curious about the validity of the Bible, just ask a long time Christian that you know. They will tell you about the peace they have felt in their lives when there should not have been peace. They will tell you about the purpose they have found. They will tell you about how the Bible has shifted their perspectives for the better. They will tell you about the community that they have in the family of God.

If you are looking for peace, purpose, perspective, or a people I think you should give Christianity a serious look. Maybe you have been on the fence about dedicating your life to Christ or maybe you have fallen away and aren’t where you want to be with God. Either way there is a better life out there, it just takes commitment. You need to commit to following God wherever He leads and you need to put your trust in Jesus. If you are thinking about dedicating or rededicating your life to Christ find a pastor or Christian you trust and talk to them about how following God can change your life for the better.

-Josiah Cain