In the small rural town where I live, football is a really big deal!
In the fall of the year, on any given Friday night, you will find a large percentage of our community pouring into our local football stadium. For our children and teenagers, it’s a fun place to hang out with friends since there’s really not much else to do in our little “neck of the woods”. And most of the adults will either have a child, grandchild, nephew, or church member who’s playing on the field or cheering on the sidelines.
One thing I have noticed at these games is whenever we have a really good, winning football team, the stands are full, and there are lots of cheering fans. But when the team is not doing so great, the crowd participation is certainly lacking. Everyone finds all sorts of things to complain about – – the coaches, the referees, the other team’s overly aggressive players, etc. And oftentimes, people start leaving the stadium towards the end of the third quarter. I realize this is not unique to our area and, in fact, this happens under the Friday night lights at most high schools all across America.
Even though I love watching football, I have to be completely honest – – I am one of those who has, on occasion, bailed out when the game was not going great.
As I think about this happening in our football stadiums, I see a lot of parallels as to how we often lead our spiritual lives.
When things are going well or when we get that outcome we had hoped for, we are quick to praise God. We find it easy to have “Friday Night Faith”. We are comfortable talking about God and giving Him all the credit, with no complaints. Our spiritual enthusiasm is high.
But when life is hard and we’re in the midst of a struggle, we tend to become overwhelmed and discouraged. (“Friday Night Faith” doesn’t come so easily.) Sometimes complaining becomes our standard, because it’s easier to place blame in other places when our circumstances seem to overtake us.
However, when praise becomes our standard, God infuses us with peace and strength to carry on in spite of our situation.
That’s where the victory lies.
The final score on the scoreboard may not be in our favor, but the victory is won when we hang tough and don’t bail out, regardless of the battles we face.
When we praise God in the midst of our hardest circumstances, we are not saying we’re glad to be in that tough situation. We aren’t jumping up and down with glee because something bad is happening. Instead, we are praising God because no matter what, He is still God, even when we are experiencing an overwhelming circumstance.
When the going gets tough, faith says “I will trust in God, because He is bigger than anything I face.”
And most importantly, it’s knowing that He doesn’t always magically fix things the way we would like. In reality, we might not get a victory in a particular situation. But in spite of all the hard stuff threatening to squeeze the life out of us, God is never absent. He says:
“Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
(Is. 41:10, ESV)
God’s help doesn’t necessarily come in the way we expect it to, but He tells us not to be dismayed. In the original Hebrew language, this literally means not to look about in dismay or gaze about in anxiety.
So when it’s tough, and it looks like we’re on the losing team, God always has a bigger plan and the promise of an ultimate victory.
Trust Him. Believe that He will work out all things perfectly, in His own time and in His own way. Don’t throw in the towel, but instead, keep believing in the God who holds victory in the palm of His hands.