We like to watch certain contest type shows. America’s Got Talent; Chopped – that sort of show. People arrive and show off their skills for the judges. They are fun to watch, and fun to see what gifts God has given to people.
There is a running theme in all of these. Contestants will almost invariably say a variation of the following.
“They might have more experience …. but no one works harder than I do”
“I just want to show my (daughter, son, nephew, niece) that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and set your mind on it.”
“I’ve had some sort of adversity, but I overcame and showed myself strong…”
“I didn’t let obstacles keep me from my dreams…”
These sorts of statements warm the hearts of the audience and judges. I don’t really want to cut down those who have worked hard and achieved their dreams, nor do I want to belittle hard work. Hard work is better than idleness; dreaming is better than hopeless despair. Trying is better than not trying at all.
But several decades of adversity tend to bring something else out about life.
The strong don’t always win.
The ones that work the hardest don’t always succeed.
The talented don’t always get the record deals.
Sometimes a virus travels up into your brain and eats holes there. Sometimes the joints degenerate.
Sometimes, you are a fighter and work hard and are determined to beat the cancer, but it wins anyway.
Sometimes, the world doesn’t work the way that it is supposed to.
11 I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
12 For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)
This is actually a comfort, because I know how often we beat ourselves up with guilt.
If my illness overcomes me, does that mean I have failed morally?
If I didn’t win, is it because I didn’t work hard enough?
If my dreams didn’t come true, is it because I didn’t visualize them enough and strive enough?
What if I am just ordinary. What if I just write a few things from time to time, plant some tomatoes that never seem to grow, and never leave any kind of name or spectacular achievement behind?
What if, like the vast majority of the human race, I die, go into the dust, and fade away and in 6 months no one remembers me, my loved ones have a hard time picturing my face, and the universe continues on?
To all of the ordinary ones like me, here’s to you!
Here’s to the one whose body is wracked with pain and getting up in the morning is a monumental task.
Here’s to the ones who can’t memorize their catechism, no matter how hard they try.
Here’s to the ones who lay awake at night sweating and trembling and not really quite able to conquer their anxieties all the time.
Here’s to the ones who just get tired and want to throw in the towel.
Here’s to the ones who work 9 to 5 on the same job their whole lives who have learned contentment.
Here’s to the ones who can’t get work because their bodies have betrayed them.
Here’s to the ones who have mastered running a 10k. And here’s to the ones who can’t walk across a Walmart without having to rest.
Whoever you are and whatever your struggle, here’s to you.
Jesus didn’t come just to save the strong, beautiful, talented. And sometimes the curse on the world is just too much.
Sometimes, you don’t get over grief, but carry it every single day.
Sometimes, you don’t wish your way into good health, but will limp every day.
Sometimes, you don’t succeed, no matter how hard you work at it.
Sometimes, your hidden talents remain hidden, because you are too busy trying to put food on the table.
Sometimes, people abandon you and the hardest battles are the ones you face alone.
In fact, usually –
people are born. They do some things. They die.
And while they are doing some things, if they are sometimes overwhelmed by the futility of it all, overcome with despair and isolation, and sometimes crushed by the weight of it all – if they cry out to the Lord, they might find that he hears, that he cares, that he is faithful, and that he has flights and flights of angels waiting to bear us to his rest…
If we just call upon his name.
For the scripture says,
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Not – “Whosoever has their lives together”
Nor – “Whosever works hard enough and dreams hard enough
Nor – “Whosoever contributes enough to society”
Nor – “He who has friends in high places
Nor – “He who gets the best invites…”
But whosoever calls.
Because if you count on your strength, you will probably trip.
If you count on your horses and riders, you might lose a nail.
If you count on your health, one microscopic virus could lay you in a chair the rest of your life.
If you count on your beauty, one fire, one accident, one bacterium…
You get the picture. The race isn’t too the swift…
BUT – whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.
This is repentance. It isn’t trying to work up enough energy to quit whatever sin you struggle with. It is turning from your trust in your will-power, the power of your dreams, the power of your love, the power of your determination – and realize the hopelessness and futility of all of it.
And call upon Jesus alone. He alone saves us. Turn away from the worship of self-reliance and lean upon him alone.
For whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.