“What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-25)
I was recently in the store of a major book seller and noticed these titles prominently displayed:
- I Can Make You Confident
- I Can Make You Sleep
- I Can Make You Rich
- I Can Make You Thin
I looked above the shelf holding these volumes and noticed this sign:
Obviously the man didn’t deliver!
Most of us in the USA these days are in dire need of what this author is promising. We Americans seem to be allowing our world to spin out of control.
It’s “do, do,do” all the time. This aspect of our culture is my main bugaboo about the way we live.
I have really struggled with that tug since I returned from living in Europe last summer. The folks over there seem to have a different mindset.
Yeah, they work hard. However, they also know when it’s time to leave the workplace and enjoy life.
It’s clear that we think that it all depends on us. We’re afraid to give up control.
Yet, we also see at times what abject failures we can be. If we weren’t overweight, financially strapped, insecure and wide-awake in the middle of the night, why would there be book titles like the ones I saw for sale at all. We obviously are lost a lot.
One of the ways we stressed-filled US Americans try to relax is by watching NFL games on TV. Every week they’re rated as some of the most viewed programs.
They’re definitely popular now as the NFL is in the middle of the playoffs. I confess to being glued to particular contests.
One of most famous of these games took place right before Christmas in 1972. The Pittsburgh Steelers were facing their archrivals, the Oakland Raiders, for the right to advance forward towards the Super Bowl.
What is legendary about this game is one particular play. It came with 22 seconds left in the match, with the Steelers behind 7-6.
Quarterback Terry Bradshaw took the snap and went back to pass. He faced a heavy rush. Running to his right, Bradshaw almost slipped to the turf, but he recovered, ran to his right and threw the ball down the field toward halfback John “Frenchy” Fuqua.
Just as the ball reached him, Fugua was smacked by Raiders cornerback Jack Tatum, infamous for his brutal hits. The ball caromed off of Tatum.
What happened next has gone down in football lore. Just as the ball was about to hit the ground, Steelers running back Franco Harris scooped the ball out of the air, ran to his left, stiff armed a pursuing Raider defender, danced along the sideline and ran into the end zone for the game winning touchdown.
As one would expect, the fans went nuts. They rushed onto the field and mobbed the celebrating Steelers players.
Fuqua told reporters this after the game:
“I can tell you this: I did not take my eyes off the ball, as you can tell from the way that my body was. What happens from that point on was truly Immaculate.”
The event has evermore been known as the Immaculate Reception.
I have been pondering of late why I seem to have little victory in my Christian life. The Immaculate Reception is a fine object lesson for me in my thinking.
You see, the Pittsburgh Steelers were going about their business trying to win the game. Frankly, things did not look good. It appeared that they were about to go down to defeat.
Yet, something extraordinary happened. When Bradshaw threw that ball, a normal action for him, everyone thought the ordinary would occur. The ball would either be caught by a Steeler, fall incomplete, or perhaps even be intercepted by a Raiders player.
No one expected the ball to take a funny bounce and miraculously fall into the hands of Franco Harris, who was in the right place at the right time. Harris didn’t hesitate, though. He took advantage of the situation and ran the ball in for a score.
Now what did the Pittsburgh Steelers have to do with their victory. Pretty much they were just available to receive the gift handed to them. I figure this must what my role is to getting victory in my Christian experience.
Recently I have been listening to the sermons a preacher from the mid 2oth century at the recommendation of my pastor. Major Ian Thomas was a man who understood what it took for a Christian to live victoriously. Thomas said,”Jesus Himself is the very dynamic to meet all his demands.”
The idea from Thomas is that Jesus doesn’t give us strength, for example. He IS our strength.
Likewise, Jesus doesn’t give us victory. He IS or victory. Thomas likes to say,”We’re just the suit of clothes Jesus wears.”
This is surely biblical. Jesus Himself said,”I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”
Why, what Jesus said is anti-American! Aren’t we supposed to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps?
Even the American hero Benjamin Franklin said that “God helps those who help themselves.” With all due respect to the otherwise admirable Mr. Franklin, this popular sentiment is hogwash and not scriptural.
The other morning I awoke and I believe God spoke to me. Oh, not audibly. It was just the still small voice we Christians we hear from His Spirit at times.
What came to me was this: “Cease striving.” This message has returned to me several times since this week.
When I get anxious, I hear “cease striving”. My only response has had to be obedience. I just tell the Lord,”Ok.”
This may be Un-American, but I don’t care. I am as big a patriot as the next guy, but I have a higher citizenship.