Friday, June 24, 2011

"Put me in coach!"

I am indebted to my brother Jeff Drake for the inspiration for this post that came during a conversation we had Wednesday night after church.

Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, 1975. From Wikipedia.
One of the great sports movies of all time is Rudy. If you're unfamiliar with the story it is about a young man from a blue-collar family with dreams of playing football for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The problem is, Rudy is not exactly the desired size of a top level football player and he doesn't exactly have the talent that most coaches are looking for. There is one thing that Rudy has that few of his peers possess, a huge heart and unquenchable desire to play for Notre Dame. Finally after a couple of years of junior college and a couple of more years being beat up on the practice squad he is allowed to dress out for the final game of his college career. Not only that, but in the final moments of the game the coach puts him in. The crowd is ecstatic, Rudy is ecstatic, the team is ecstatic and for a few seconds of gameplay he goes absolutely bananas. When his dream of being put in the game is finally realized, he earns it.

I wonder how many of us, in whatever realm of ministry, find ourselves looking to God and begging, "Hey coach, put me in the game. Coach, I'm ready, I've been practicing, put me in!" You see, when we know God has placed a call on our lives and has set a desire deep within our hearts to be about His business there can often be a great degree of anticipation and, in fact, impatience to be used. I mean, have you ever sat on the sidelines of life and watched your peers get opportunity after opportunity while you're still being used as a tackling dummy on the practice field? I know I have.

The beauty of God's plan is that it is perfect. He never delays one millisecond longer than is absolutely necessary and He never jumps the gun. His timing is always spot-on. Many people will look at the long history of Israel and wonder why God waited several thousand years to send the Messiah or why He has waited so long to return for His Church. I have often found myself pondering the same questions. I mean why wait for Israel to suffer and ride the rollercoaster of freedom and captivity when He could have just sent Jesus and offered redemption sooner? Think about all of those Christians who anxiously awaited Christ's return in their lifetime as well. The only answer that make any sense at all is that God had, and has, the timing all figured out and it will work out perfectly for His plan for the world.

Now it may be easy to understand God's timing as it relates to the history of the world and major events like sending the Redeemer but it may be altogether more difficult to grasp it when it comes to our own lives. Yet, the same God who has had His hand in world events since the Creation also cares infinitely about the minute events of our lives. If we look at history we will see that the major events were a result of a series of smaller events that led up to something greater. Take the apostle Paul for example. Here was a man who was born into a Jewish family but one that also gave him Roman citizenship. He was trained as a Pharisee by Gamaliel and witnessed the stoning of Stephen. On the road to Damascus one day he was struck down by an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Then after a time of healing and learning with Ananias and some of the disciples he went away for three years to be trained by God Himself. Subsequently, we know that Paul went on to found churches, and write letters that would become the majority of the New Testament. Now, I ask you, what Christian has not been influenced by the writings of Paul? Hopefully none! Paul did not become a great apostle and author of God's word overnight. All the events of his life were orchestrated to take place at just the right time to have the maximum effect for God's kingdom.

The challenge for us is to see our lives, not as a mad rush to a certain goal, but as a series of events put in place by God to get us to a goal He has for us, and it may be one that we don't even see. When Billy Graham was called to preach as a young man I seriously doubt he could have even dreamed that he would preach all over the world to millions of people and various US presidents. Am I saying we are all going to be Billy Grahams and Pauls? Heavens no! One of the hardest things for me to get my mind around is the fact that in God's economy the ones who reach millions and the ones who reach two are just as important. Look at the Old Testament and see this in action. The books of Isaiah and Jeremiah are some of the longest in the Bible. Yet Amos and Obadiah, such short books, are just as crucial to the message. In the New Testament Romans is perhaps the greatest exposition of theology we have and one of the longest letters Paul wrote. However, where would we be without the exhortations of love found in 1,2 and 3 John? 

Many times God does not give us more than one step at a time. He may not give us the privilege of seeing the big picture and all the little stepping stones that lead to the goal He has for us. However, we must put our trust in Him and His plan. What I find myself guilty of far too often is trusting God for my salvation but not my tomorrow. From where I'm sitting I want to beg God to "put me in the game." I think I'm ready and I think its time, however God may have different designs.

In Mark 5 there is the famous story of the Gerasene demoniac. After Jesus casts out legion into the herd of pigs and the man regains his composure Jesus is asked to leave the region because the people fear what has happened. At this point the former demoniac asks Jesus if he can go with Him. Jesus replies;

Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you (Mark 5:19).

The man wanted to go in the game with Jesus. In fact, the Bible says he "was imploring" Jesus. To "implore" someone was to do more than just ask them, it has a meaning more akin to earnestly beg. This man was ready to follow Jesus and be a part of His work in the world, but Jesus said, "You need to be in game in a different place at this time." Has Jesus told you the same thing? I'm sure this man was disappointed at some level and, dear friends, when Jesus tells us "not yet" or "not here" we can get discouraged. The thing we must do is, not look to the bigger picture because we can't see the bigger picture, we must look at the artist of it. If you've ever watched Bob Ross paint on TV you will know that when he starts out and begins putting brush to canvas it doesn't necessarily look like anything. However, after watching him a few times I would never doubt that the finished product was going to be a beautiful picture.

We may feel like we want to get in the game right here, right now. However, God may have different designs for our life. There may be more to learn, more growth to take place, more to experience to prepare us for where He wants us, when He wants us.

One final thing. Rudy Ruettiger trained, practiced and fought so that he could, one day, play football for the Fighting Irish. I can't say this for sure but I have to think that he practiced everyday as if he was going to be put in the game that week. Do we prepare ourselves to be used by God each and every day even if we see no playing time on the horizon? Or, do we sit around hoping that one day we will get word that we're going in, waiting to prepare then? Yes, each day could be our last and we should live like it, but don't forget tomorrow could be the day the Coach puts us in the game. Will we be ready?

Godspeed,
Christian

 

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