It’s one of my favorite months of the year, for many reasons: the air is getting cooler, the holidays begin in full next month, and the baseball pennant races are at their climax.
One year ago last night, I was at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. I had been scheduled to speak on Sunday morning for the brothers and sisters in the Winchester area, and decided to make a long weekend out of it and go to DC beforehand; as luck would have it, my beloved Boston Red Sox were in town playing the Nationals! I made a few phone calls and got my friend Chris to meet me at the game. It would be the first time I saw the Red Sox play since I was a kid. As glad as I was to be going to the game on Friday night, I was also a little nervous: the Red Sox were right in the thick of the playoff race, and the game was by all accounts a “must-win;” they were essentially tied with three other teams who were all trying to get two playoff spots, so instead of sitting back and relaxing and fully enjoying an October baseball game, there was a real desired outcome (obviously, I would have wanted the Sox to win regardless).
The Red Sox won 4-2. I stayed up late that night in my hotel room watching the end of the Mariners game (another team who was in the mix); they lost, so that helped the Red Sox. The next morning, I went into the city; I visited the Museum of the Bible (something I’d wanted to do for a long time) and went up the Washington Monument (something I’d wanted to do since I was probably ten years old).
That afternoon, I headed over to Craig and Diane’s place in Star Tannery (near the West Virginia line) and spent the night, and we all had a wonderful Sunday morning; I got to see some brothers and sisters I hadn’t seen in a few years. My heart was full! I drove home the long way—through the mountains—and got home just in time to turn on the TV and see the end of the final game between the Red Sox and Nationals; the Red Sox won, and clinched a playoff spot, and then later that week, beat the Yankees in the Wild Card game, then beat the Rays in the Division Series, before falling just short against the Astros, two wins away from the World Series. It was a surprising run, considering that in the weeks leading up to the Playoffs, the Red Sox had many struggles, and just barely made it in.
Each team plays 162 games in the regular season (sometimes even 163 if there’s a tiebreaker needed); there’s a saying that even the best teams lose 60 times, and the worst teams still win 60 times; every team (usually) wins 60 times and loses 60 times, and it’s the other 40 or so games that separate the contenders from the “pretenders.”
Life is full of ups and downs; Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, wrote “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV),” and goes on to say “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” You’re going to have some really good days, and you’re going to have some really lousy days.
Israel dealt with 40 years of ups and downs on their way to the Promised Land; they were delivered from Egypt, yet when they didn’t have food, they wanted to go back; they saw miracles, yet suffered plagues; they won battles, and lost others. By the time they entered the Land, many had fallen away and never made it, but some did. Even Moses himself did not get to enter the Land, but he remained faithful and knew that the LORD would make good on his word.
The LORD said to Isaiah, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).” The NIV Life Application Study Bible says, “God rules over light and darkness, over prosperous times and times of disaster, over our struggles and over our victories. Our lives are sprinkled with all types of experiences, and all are needed for us to grow spiritually. When good times come, thank God and use your blessings for him. When bad times come, don’t resent them, but ask what you can learn from these refining experiences to make you a better servant of God.”
David, a man who had more ups and downs than he could count, wrote that the LORD was his Shepherd, whether in green pastures and by still waters, or in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). No matter what, his cup overflowed.
We too are going to have good and bad days, but count it all joy, knowing that the trying of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2-3).
There’s a hymn that starts “For the joys and for the sorrows, the best and worst of times,” and the chorus says, “for this, I have Jesus (repeated).” He is present, and he promises that all who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).
One thing to keep in mind is that there’s no carryover: you wake up and it’s a brand-new day; the mercies of the LORD are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Whether yesterday was “good” or “bad,” it’s in the past. “Be ye steadfast,” says Paul, “immovable, always abounding in the work of the LORD (1 Corinthians 15:58).” Run with patience the race set before you; look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Be diligent, lest you fail of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15). Whatever you’re dealing with, good or bad, is not to be compared with the glory to be revealed (Romans 8:18), and to receive the crown of glory that the LORD has promised to them that love him (James 1:12).
“But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)!”
Grace and Peace,