“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:12-14).”
Attending one of the games of the local minor league baseball team is a lot of fun. Not only are fans treated to good baseball, but they also are amused by ongoing contests and games.
Selected participants, many of them kids, entertain the rest of the crowd by a variety of means in between innings. For example, every game a youngster goes on the field and tries to to catch a flying rubber chicken in a box. Another seeks to toss bags into a hole from a distance. In between one inning, two kids race each other on a couple of inflated animals. It’s all a lot of fun.
The winners of these contests receive small prizes. Sometimes its a T-shirt. Other times it’s a coupon for free food or a gift certificate.
Normally, the “winners” are the people who accomplish the required tasks successfully, but not always. It depends on the whims of the “judge”, or in some cases, the “judges”.
At times the entire crowd is asked to declare the winner. They do this by screaming the loudest for their favorite. From a competitor’s point of view, the decisions made by the throng may seem arbitratry because the winner is not always the best at the competition.
Two competitions last night illustrated this observation. In one contest, kids tried to dunk a basketball into a low-set net. There were a bunch of boys, including one kid with what the announcer called “an advantage”: He was tall. In the midst of all those boys was the cutest little girl tyke you will ever see. Guess who the crowd chose as their favorite.
In another instance, two people competed in a karaoke contest. One woman sang her song beautifully. Then her competitor was asked to sing. The music played and nothing came from him. Then the crowd began to rhythmically clap with the music to encourage him along. Soon, a not-so-good version of the song aired into the mike.
The man won the contest, by a large margin. You see, he was severely disabled and in a wheelchair. The warmth of the crowd for that man was one of the most moving sights I have ever seen.
Solomon wrote:”The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned (Ecclesiates 9:11).” At least not always.
God has different criteria for judging success than a lot of us. His thinking on matters is on a completely different plane than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
For example, God puts a higher premium on what’s in a person’s heart than He does on their physical attributes. He chose David to be king of Israel over a whole slew of brothers based on the quality of His inner man (I Samuel 16:7). The Lord takes more pleasure in a person’s inclination to delights in and fear Him than he does their athletic abilities (Psalm 147:10,11).
“Unfair!” we say.” We’re not God. How are we supposed to know what His criteria are for success? His value system seems so capricious!”
Well for starters, we get some indication of what God values from His creation. The Psalmist says that people all over the globe can find out what God is about from the heavens (Psalm 19:1-4).
During and on the way home from the game last night, we were treated to something as entertaining as the baseball and other amusements. There was a gorgeous crescent moon in the night sky, accompanied by Venus. From this, the observer can see that the Lord values beauty.
There’s something even more delightful than the night sky that will light up our world: God’s Word, the Bible. God says His precepts and commands give joy and guidance. They radiate guidance from Him (Psalm 19:7,8).
Yep, we might think that God is like a crowd at a baseball game, choosing criteria over and above the requirements, to declare a “winner” in life. However, most of His value system is right there in the Scriptures.
If we want to please the Judge, we have to learn to distinguish what makes for success with Him and what doesn’t. This knowledge doesn’t come easy. Like anything else, if we are going to attain favor with Him, developing the ability to think like Him will take some blood,sweat and tears.