As a culture we celebrate winners, the best and brightest. We work, train, and study to succeed. We dedicate long hours for a prize. Perhaps that prize is a promotion, a trophy or recognition by our peers and others. After all the effort, striving for success we hope to get what we deserve. Actually, what is it that we think we deserve?
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve (emphasis mine). But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:36-43 NIV
During the recent state football competition, amidst the cold and rain, a high school football team, mentally and physically prepared, took the field. These disciplined young men had previously battled through some incredibly tough games; facing opponents larger and more experienced. Throughout the season, against strong opponents and harsh conditions, strenuous workouts and and long hours of practice, never did they quit on each other or the game because they had one goal: to reach the State Championship. Now during this final game these athletes fought, scored, and fought some more. Although they held the lead from the beginning, in the end the victory went to the opponent. It wasn't right or fair, players, coaches and fans all thought this team deserved to win!
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” ...the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NIV
Society tells us that our goal should championships. Always striving to be faster, stronger, and better than the opponent whether in business, sports or life. The one with the most toys, trophies and the best grades is the winner. If you're not the winner then you are the loser. However, we all deserve to loose! As sinners in God's eyes we should have lost the right to enter into His Presence and a life with Him in Eternity, but through Christ's sacrifice, we are not going to get what we deserve, death. Death allows us to be winners of the ultimate prize, life with Elohim for all eternity.
Ephesians 2:4-9 NIV says we win salvation because of God's love: Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions ...For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Stuggles, disappointments and trials of every kind grow our faith. We do not often understand, but we walk in faith trusting that the One who formed the universe has all things under control. As chaotic as this world appears, He sits on His throne allowing our struggles and defeats to strengthen our spirit as we trust Him in ALL things, even when it doesn't make sense, when it is painful, when we don't deserve the pain, the loss or the difficulty. Christ did not deserve the cross, but He endured, so that we might be saved by grace through His sacrifice. Much of the world, including the disciples, initially viewed Christ's death a loss, yet ultimately His attained the victory over death!
The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever— holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:7-10 NIV
It was hard to be joyful after a difficult defeat. The rest of the story is that prior to the State Championship game, a group of football moms gathered in the locker room to pray for our team, coaches and fans. We asked many things that afternoon: protection from injury for both teams, travel mercies and sportsmanship during competition that would glorify the King of the Universe. One other prayer was to help us give God the glory, win or loose, and expressing our gratefulness for bringing us to that final game. Our God held us to it! The outcome of the game taught us many things, but most importantly...seldom do we get what we deserve, but always we should praise the mighty name of Elohim.
Father God, Almighty Creator of the Universe, life on earth hurts. Yet we are reminded that You, the Sovereign LORD come with power, and You rule with a mighty arm. I know my reward is with You. You tend your flock like a shepherd: gathering us like lambs in Your mighty arms and carrying us close to Your heart; gently leading us. You have measured the waters in the hollow of Your hand, and with the breadth of Your hand marked off the heavens. You have held the dust of the earth in a basket, and weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance. We cannot fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as His counselor (Isaiah 40:10-13) for You alone are God and we humbly accept Your plans, purposes, victories and defeats, even when we do not understand. Amen