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Listen to the Coach!

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God’s Word Is Always Relevant—and Especially Right Now

 

Welcome to a new kind of March Madness.

Like many other Americans, I miss watching the basketball games this month, especially the NCAA tourney as college teams march toward the Final Four. In the end, the winning players are not only the most talented, but the ones who display perseverance, discipline, and teamwork—qualities we all need right now.

With all the distractions from thousands of screaming fans and intrusive TV cameras, the players who do best are those who listen carefully to their coach’s voice.

Noisy voices are clamoring for our attention this week:  TV news reports, social media comments, press conferences by government officials. Amid all the worrisome news, crowded stores, and jokes about toilet paper, above all else we need to hear the clear, confident voice of our Coach. Through all the chaos, Jesus calls, “Follow me.”

Skeptics charge that God, faith, and the Bible are irrelevant to real life. To me, that kind of cynicism never rings true, but how could anyone make such a claim right now? The Bible speaks directly to the challenges we face as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. In fact, certain portions of God’s Word practically jump off the page. Here are five biblical principles that can help us move through this challenging season.

Don’t be shocked—and don’t be dismayed. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus predicted that we will face hardships, but he also guaranteed ultimate victory. He said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Make plans—but be flexible when plans change. “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. . . . Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13, 15).

Take good care of your vulnerable neighbors. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Do what you can, and trust God with the rest. When a woman honored Jesus by pouring expensive perfume onto his head, bystanders criticized her actions. But Jesus commended her by saying, “She did what she could” (Mark 14:8). In the midst of a global pandemic, you and I can’t know everything, do everything, and fix everything. Let’s do what we can, and trust God with the rest. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9, 10).

Replace worry with worship. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).

Lots of voices are clamoring for our attention right now. Most of all, let’s pay attention to our Coach. According to him, faith “is the victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4). Let’s listen to the Lord.  

Take Five, Give Five

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Sometimes God gives us good gifts in unexpected ways. This is one of those times.

As a culture we have been busy and stressed, running from one thing to the next without a break. We have gotten used to a high stock market and a low level of discourse. We have been obsessed with sports and entertainment, and we have grown accustomed to constant sniping, bickering, and disunity in Washington, D. C. We have even taken for granted the ability to go to church, treating it the way a consumer purchases a product or selects a restaurant in which to dine.

This week, suddenly we have to stop. It’s as if God is saying, “Everybody take five.” Stop taking your health, money, food, school, job, and church for granted. Quit majoring in minor things. Remember what’s really important. Stop being too busy to pray.  Quit overlooking the elderly, the sick, and the isolated. And yes, you can even quit going to school and church for a while (or at least change the way you’ve been doing them). For a bit of time yet to be determined, just stop. 

God built sabbath rest into his law, not to burden us but to bless us. “The sabbath was made for man,” Jesus said (Mark 2:27). God knows we need a break now and then—a time to “take five,” rest, recuperate, and recalibrate our souls. But in typical fashion, as if we know better than the Creator, we humans rush right over the God-given speed bumps and keep going until our spiritual fuel tanks are empty and our bodies are ready to crash. God told the ancient Israelites to let their land rest every seventh year, but they ignored his instructions and kept farming the land year after year without a break. In time the Lord allowed the Babylonians to carry the Jewish people into exile, and in that way the “land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested” (2 Chronicles 36:21).

So during these unprecedented days, let’s “take five.” Find new ways to rest, worship, pray, and serve.

And let’s also “give five.” Throughout the day, take five minutes here and there to serve someone else. Phone a shut-in.  Write an encouraging note. Text a friend. Talk and play with your children.  Check on a neighbor who lives alone. Stop and pray for someone who’s lonely. Reach out to a missionary or a soldier stationed overseas.

This is a time to “take five,” but as Jesus reminded us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  “Social distancing” doesn’t have to mean relational distancing. This is a great time for Christ-followers to serve a world in turmoil. Let’s make the most of every opportunity. Let’s be living examples of God’s calming peace and his unselfish love. It’s time to take five—and give five, too.

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