Time and Chance

It’s one of my very favorite times of the year, for many reasons; one of which is because the NCAA Basketball Tournament (also known as “March Madness”) begins tomorrow with the Selection Show; 68 of the best college basketball teams in the country are invited to the single-elimination, winner-take-all Tournament to determine the National Champion. This past week and a half has been filled with the Conference Tournaments, which play a part in determining which teams make the field of 68. The school I went to—VCU—has had a great deal of success in the past 15 years or so, and it seems that almost every year they are in contention for one of the 68 bids to the NCAA Tournament. Last night though, their hopes of making the field took a huge hit after losing in the Atlantic-10 Quarterfinals against their crosstown rival, the University of Richmond Spiders. VCU had already beaten Richmond twice in the regular season, but then when it really counted, Richmond had the better game and was able to knock the Rams out of the Atlantic-10 Tournament and most likely keep them from playing in March Madness. The Spiders then pulled another upset this afternoon against Dayton to advance to the Atlantic-10 Championship Game tomorrow for the right to go to March Madness. That’s basketball, and that’s sports: sometimes the team who is supposed to win, has a bad game, or the team who is not expected to win, plays lights out and pulls the upset. It happens all the time, and March Madness is full of it: even just in the past few years, we’ve seen some of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history (such as Virginia losing to Maryland-Baltimore County, and Michigan State losing to Middle Tennessee State). It wasn’t part of a tournament, but not many people expected North Carolina to go in and beat Duke last Saturday in Coach K’s final home game before he retires. It happens: not just in sports, but in life—sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it just doesn’t.

King Solomon, the wisest man—other than Jesus, of course—to ever live, wrote “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11 English Standard Version).”

Obviously, the LORD doesn’t care about who wins a college basketball game, or who has more degrees or money, but he is in control; he knows the end from the beginning. We don’t.

On a sunny Friday afternoon in March 2020, my uncle Rob and I met up for lunch at our favorite pizza place (RIP A New York Slice) and we shared a large pepperoni pizza; we talked about the upcoming March Madness, and whatever else. Neither of us—or anyone else—knew what was about to happen just six days later—two years ago today—when everything would change and a period of unprecedented uncertainty would begin. As crazy as it all was, the LORD was never any less in control than he was before it or is right now. He was the same before the Pandemic began, and will be the same a thousand years from now, The Psalmist writes that the LORD sits enthroned on the flood; he is in control even if your world is “underwater.” He gives good times and bad times to keep people in check, and he will make all things right one day. He changes times and seasons and he knows what he’s doing, and when he makes a plan, no one can stop or change it (Isaiah 14:27). This is the same God that made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-14).

A Brother once said at a youth weekend, “focus on what you can control, fear God and keep his commandments (from Ecclesiastes 12:14); don’t worry about the rest.” He is always good: win, lose, or draw. Keep your mind stayed on him: you will have peace (Isaiah 26:3). He delivers the righteous (Psalm 34:19); trust in him and he will act in time (Psalm 37:5). Nothing is left to chance when the LORD does something.

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God has made one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him (Ecclesiastes 7:14).”

Grace and peace,

Dan

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