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Beyond Here And Now

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes engages coaches and athletes to grow in their faith and sport.

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Beyond Here And Now

Written by Bryan Dench

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Is 46:8-11

Last fall I spent nine days in the hospital with a serious staph infection. A generation or two ago, it likely would have killed me. It was a painful and miserable experience physically and was hard because I could actually look from my hospital room window down onto the hockey rink where I should have been playing three mornings a week!  Would I ever get back on the ice, I wondered?

But thanks be to God, modern medicine has effective remedies that God used to pull me through.  Through affliction, God gave me a chance to live my trust in Him.  And He blessed me through my loving wife, children, and friends, and through skilled and excellent doctors and nurses.  After two months of work to recover and get back in shape, I am back on the ice!

For most of you who will read this, the experience of a life-threatening illness can exist only in the imagination. But even for those of us who are healthy, vigorous athletes, it never hurts to be reminded that one’s years are brief. We need to make good use of the time.  We also need to remember nothing bad will last.

You see, we live our lives, as someone once wrote, as “prisoners of time.” We experience things only in a straight line, from the beginning to the end. Unlike us, God lives outside of time. As Scripture teaches, he sees the end from the beginning.

We see snapshots, if you will, while God sees an entire movie from start to end.

We live only in this present moment. To us, the past is a memory. The future is unknown, and can be a source of anxiety or foolish fear.

What can these truths say to us as Christians? Well, the only thing we can control is our own attitude and behavior in this present moment, wherever we find God has put us. That is why it is so important how we act and respond in each situation. That’s the only thing we can do:  to live our Christian life before God, striving to act in the present moment in a way that will be pleasing to him.

It also means, though I confess it is a real struggle for me, living without fear or anxiety about the future. Jesus spoke more about how we should not fear, worry, or be anxious than any other thing.   We know that our God is sovereign and in control of everything. We know that we can trust him to do good for those of us who love him. Romans 8:28 Though our life experience includes many “present” moments that are painful or filled with sorrow, we know that those moments will pass. We must struggle not to be imprisoned by time, or to fall into the trap Satan might give us about the hopelessness of a present trial.

You know how it is, our adversary is always quick to plant in our minds the thought, “this experience is terrible, and it will never end.” Or, “God doesn’t care about what you’re going through right now. If he did, he would do something. Where is he?”

Scripture gives us the answers to these challenges. Because Jesus become the God man, he knows from firsthand experience everything we could ever suffer, and more.  God never gives us more than we can bear, though in the moment it may not seem so. For us, to grow as Christians, we need to grab hold of these truths.
No, it often isn’t easy. Nor should we make light of the suffering or struggles of others. A Christian should always come alongside those who are suffering with charity and sympathy, albeit without encouraging a sinful form of self-pity. It’s a delicate balance to strike. But I have to confess a certain amount of frustration or annoyance with Christians who act like those who are suffering should just “Buck up” and get through it without any grief or sorrow.  Our trials are real and we experience the full weight of them in this present moment.

The challenging reality is that God permits us to struggle and even to suffer, and very often uses those trials and tribulations to draw us to himself and strengthen us. I admit I have wished at times God would choose a different way to work on me. But as he is God, and I am not hot, my job is to trust him, as Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”  And I can honestly say that when I was so sick and in the hospital, I was not afraid.  I certainly didn’t like it and experienced a lot of physical suffering.  But I knew that whatever happened, God was holding me in His hand.  I knew I could die.  I did not want to, but I did not fear to.

Athletic competition is nowhere near as serious as a life threatening illness or many of the other trials people face in life.  But in its own way it gives us a good opportunity to be pushed to our limits, to work hard, to struggle, sometimes to fail, and to enjoy the fruits of our effort when success comes our way. In that sense it can be a good laboratory for skills that serve a believing Christian well in all other aspects of life, even in ultimate struggles with life’s trials. Use our great game of ice hockey as an opportunity to enjoy those benefits. Have fun. Use the gifts that God has given you. Give it your all and strive to be successful. Through it all, learn the lessons that God provides through sport and athletic competition to treat both success and failure as the imposters they ultimately are, because this life is not all there is.

Discussion Questions and Reflection Thoughts

  1. What do you do when things don’t go right?  How do you respond?  What do others see in your response?
  2. Do you realize God is in control of it all, and that whatever you experience God is working it for good. Do you really trust him deep down inside?  Is your faith just said, or is it really ow you live deep down inside?
  3. Try to remember that we live in time, limited by the present moment, while time does not apply to God. For God, all times are now, all times are soon.
  4. You are made in the image of God and if you have placed your trust in Jesus, you are a child of God and nothing can hurt you in any ultimate sense.

Additional Reading

  1. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Number 8
  2. Job 13:15
  3. Romans 8:28
  4. Rudyard Kipling, If.

About the Author

Bryan Dench grew up a competitive athlete in Massachusetts, lettering in soccer, hockey, and tennis in high school. He played a year of college hockey at Harvard. He has coached hockey (working mainly with goalies) and for many years coached soccer at all levels from youth to high school, possessing a USSF D level coaching license. Bryan has had the privilege of assisting is a coach at the FCA hockey camp in Hagerstown, Maryland, and, Lord willing, hopes to continue to be more and more involved with FCA hockey.

 

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