by Darrell Wacker
The BCS Championship game between Ohio State and LSU was played last night and what a performance by the “Bayou Bengals.” While taking Ohio State’s best shot in the opening minutes, LSU remained steady, stayed true to their game plan, and ultimately dominated the Buckeyes. As a long-suffering University of Kentucky football fan (I know, I know!) I am always in a distinct minority here in southwestern Ohio, where they think that “The Ohio State University” reigns supreme. I must admit my sinful nature feels a sense of satisfaction in seeing LSU manhandle the Buckeyes, if for no other reason than to say “I told you so” to all these Buckeye fans I live and work with.
I see many similarities between that football game and the game of life. I’m sure both teams were really excited about the opportunity to play for a “national championship,” and both teams endured a grueling season and many hardships along the way to put them in that game. And both teams lost during the season, with the champion Tigers losing twice. Neither team was perfect – in fact, they weren’t even close to perfect.
We aren’t perfect either – in fact we are far from it. We endure hardships, trials and temptations. We are barraged with sexually suggestive messages constantly. Alcohol use is rampant in high schools, and drug use is always around. Celebrities are front page news for their sinful lifestyles and lurid behavior, yet our society almost worships them. Peer pressure to look, act, or dress a certain way or do things which we know are wrong is a constant trial for most of us.
Like the early part of the football game, it seems that the world has taken a huge lead. When we look around us and see all of the things going on in our schools, our communities, the world at large, and yes, even the Church, it seems that Satan has a huge lead and is threatening to run away from us and win.
Thankfully, however, the game is not over. Better yet, we already know the final score, that in Jesus Christ, God has already fought and won the victory for us. Now He desires to give us freely the fruits of that victory – not a trophy made with hands, but eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and salvation from the hardships, trials, and temptations of this world.
Like LSU when they were behind, Christians need to remain steady and endure the hardships that will surely come. Christians shouldn’t be afraid to stand against the wind, resisting a culture that becomes seemingly more immoral every day. We shouldn’t be afraid to stand against pre-marital sex, drugs, alcohol, cheating, or any of the other temptations that come our way because Christians know that God has won the victory over those things already, Satan and his tricks are judged, the “deed is done”, the victory remains ours in Jesus Christ.
Jesus will return on the last day, and all believers will rise to meet Him, while unbelievers will be cast away with Satan. Our faith in the obedient life, death, and resurrection of Jesus will allow us to enter into the presence of the God who created us without sin or imperfection, just like God intended us to be when He created Adam and Eve.
All of us will fall prey to sin and feel the sting of its consequences, but that’s not where it ends-the Church is where forgiveness and absolution is found, unlike the world that often condones or excuses sin. St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…abstain from every evil.” So, Christians need to pray continually that God would give us the fruits of His victory in Jesus Christ. He gives these fruits to us at the Divine Service. There, God gives us His gifts and we are strengthened for our own daily battles. The Church is where God comes to us in the very body and blood of Jesus in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sin. The Church is where we are reminded over and over again of our Baptism and that we are part of a larger family that loves and supports us.
God uses our fellow believers to console us and encourage us. Being surrounded with other believers is a tremendous blessing and a defense against the Evil One. God can use our Christian friends to help us resist worldly temptations. God also gives us loving and forgiving parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who love us in spite of the selfish, sinful things we do. While it may be hard to believe, they have faced many of the same temptations as you, and they might have even given in to them as well. For those of you who don’t have someone that close or are uncomfortable with talking to a relative, your Pastor can be a great person to talk to. He will give you the comfort and peace that comes from God’s Word.
God has provided many tools to help us stay steady and stay faithful. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can come to faith, and it is only by God’s grace and mercy that we can remain in the faith, standing against Satan and the world. When we inevitably fail, it is only God who can forgive and restore us through Jesus. Finally, God will also raise us to new life on the last day to spend eternity with Him. Come Lord Jesus!