Thursday, June 11, 2015

Joy in Knowing Victory’s Already Won

For Ohio State fans, watch a replay of the Buckeyes' College Football
Championship victory is far less stressful than it was watching it live.

“I can’t stand the suspense!” How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that yourself?

We do this with page-turning novels that keep us guessing until the last paragraph. Movie thrillers keep us squirming in our seats, wondering how the good guys are going to prevail. And season finale cliff-hangers on TV sometimes ratchet our suspense to extremes.

But this matter of suspense isn’t limited to the make-believe world. It’s a big deal in real life, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be certain of the outcome for things important to us, and could know well in advance? It sure would save us a lot of anxiety, stress and worry, don’t you think?

For instance, how would you feel if your favorite team was playing in the championship game and someone were able to provide an ironclad, no-doubt-about-it guarantee that they would win the contest? (For the sake of discussion, let’s just assume this assurance was on the up-and-up. No game-fixing.) How do you think that would affect your tension level as the game unfolded?

Or maybe you’re one of those rabid fans – as I am – that records the game while watching it live, so if your team wins you can replay it and revel in the victory again. After the game, when you know the outcome, doesn’t that enable you to relax and enjoy it more the second time around? No need for gnashing teeth every time your team makes a mistake or the other team scores. Victory is certain!

Consider a different scenario: You’ve just been diagnosed with a very serious disease and the first physician you consult with offers a dire prognosis. But then you pursue the oft-recommended second opinion and the specialist, upon reviewing your test results, assures you the outlook is far more hopeful than you’d been told. In fact, the doctor advises you not to worry at all, that you’ll undoubtedly be cured; the earlier diagnosis was incorrect. How would you feel then? You might be angry about the first evaluation, and a bit concerned about the course of treatment, but with faith in the medical expert’s promise, you’d feel confident that after going through it you would be good to go.

How about a friend or loved one going through an extremely difficult time, leaving you feeling helpless. Wouldn’t it be great at such times if someone could tell you with unwavering certainty, “It’s going to be OK. I promise”?

Unfortunately, living in a sin-scarred, broken world, the fairy tale endings of “happily ever after” don’t always translate into everyday life. And yet, as we read the Bible, we find God does offer assurances and guarantees, even for the toughest circumstances.

Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to His chosen people, God stated, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Although addressed specifically to the nation of Israel, this is a declaration He makes for all of His children. The end result, the Lord promises, will be a good one.

Knowing His crucifixion was looming in the near future, Jesus offered similar assurances to His followers when He said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have (perfect) peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted)! For I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.)” – John 16:33 (Amplified translation).

Confronting not only our personal problems but also frightening events in the world around us, it’s easy to despair and lose heart. But we don’t have to - we can trust in the “guarantee” God provides, being reassured as Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” That’s what “victory in Jesus” is all about.

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