Does Anyone Believe in You?

With four seconds left in the game and trailing the Saints, 24-23, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum lofted a desperation pass to Stefon Diggs near the New Orleans 35-yard line. After Diggs went high in the air to snag the pass, coaches yelled at him to get out of bounds so the Vikings could attempt a last-second field goal.

But Diggs disregarded his coaches. When no one tackled him, he decided to head for the end zone instead of going out of bounds. In one of the most amazing finishes in NFL playoff history, he went untouched to a 61-yard touchdown as time expired.

If you didn’t see the play, you may want to check it out on YouTube.

After the game, Case Keenum said it was the third happiest day of his life – behind the day he gave his life to Jesus Christ and the day he married his wife.

Pretty cool…

Yet I was even more  struck by something Stefon Diggs said after the game, as he fought back tears of joy and disbelief. “My coach believed in me…my quarterback believed in me…and God believed in me,”  he explained.

I don’t know much about Stefon’s background. But reading between the lines, I wondered if he was implying that his coach, his quarterback, and God were the ONLY three who really believed in him!

Most of us have faced some naysayers along the way, and it’s a powerful experience when you know someone truly believes in you.

That’s why one of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 7:16, where the apostle Paul writes, I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”  Although most people have never given much thought to this verse, it contains a life-changing principle, especially when you realize who Paul was writing to.

You see, the Corinthians were his “problem church.” Paul’s letters reveal that they were seriously divided, with factions supporting various human leaders. They also argued about spiritual gifts, meat offered to idols, and even Jesus’ resurrection. The squabbles were so intense that the Corinthians were taking each other to court before the city’s secular magistrates.

Even the Lord’s Supper had become a problem. While it was supposed to be a unifying practice in the church, it has become a travesty in Corinth, a total embarrassment. Meanwhile, the church was tolerating blatant immorality among its members, and no one was doing anything to confront the misdeeds.

If all this dysfunction wasn’t enough, Paul realized that many of the Corinthians no longer respected his leadership – even though he had been used by God to bring them the Gospel.

How would you  handle a church like this?

Even though you or I may have been tempted to just knock the dust off our feet and have nothing further to do with the Corinthian believers, Paul had a quite different approach…

I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”

Doesn’t that sound ludicrous based on the condition of these wayward Christians? Well, yes, it sounds pretty crazy…unless you understand one of Paul’s most important leadership secrets: His confidence in the Corinthians was based upon His confidence in the Lord.

“Such confidence we have through Christ TOWARD GOD”  (2 Corinthians 3:4 NASB).

Is there someone today you’re struggling to have confidence in? Perhaps you’ve lost hope that anything will ever change with your spouse, a son or daughter, or someone in your church or workplace.

We’ve all come to that place at one time or another, losing hope that those around us will ever change. And to be honest, sometimes they don’t  change.

However, the basis of Paul’s secret was his confidence that God would answer his prayers and turn things around in the people and situations that concerned him. For example, immediately after telling the Philippians of his constant prayers for them, he made this beautiful declaration of confidence in how they would turn out:

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 1:6 NASB).

I can’t help wondering where Stefon Diggs would be today if someone didn’t believe in him. For that matter, where would you or I be if God hadn’t sent friends and mentors to encourage us and believe in us?

Perhaps you’re struggling today, feeling like no one expects you to succeed. Maybe your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends, or your boss have expressed their displeasure and their doubts – and perhaps you don’t even believe in yourself.

If so, remember Paul’s message to the Corinthians. While things didn’t look very good on the surface, he bet on God to turn things around and complete the work He started.

Even with only four seconds left on the clock, with God’s help you just might score the winning touchdown.

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When You DOUBT What You KNOW

Not long ago, one of my good friends rebuked me. Severely rebuked me. We were having a discussion about some issues in my life, and he asked me if I was trusting God.

Being the honest guy that I am, I didn’t want to automatically give him the nice Christian answer. I wanted to give him the honest answer.

After taking a moment to ponder whether I truly was trusting the Lord in this specific area of my life, I admitted to my friend that I didn’t really know.

“But Jim,” he said, “you know the Bible as well as anyone. You know the Bible says God is faithful and trustworthy. I’m really concerned about you.”

Our discussion went downhill from there. Although I acknowledged that the Bible says God is worthy of our trust, I admitted that I was I was struggling to do so.

“After walking with Christ all these years, how could you feel that way?” my friend persisted.

In the weeks since our discussion, I’ve had time to process this question a little more. How is it that we sometimes DOUBT the things we KNOW?

That seems strange, doesn’t it? Sort of an oxymoron. If we really know something, how could we also doubt it at times?

Yet the Bible is filled with examples of people who doubted things they clearly knew or should have known. Sometimes the result of their unbelief was catastrophic, but at other times God seemed to answer their prayers and bless them despite their doubt:

  • Adam and Eve KNEW God’s goodness firsthand, but they allowed the serpent to sow doubts about God’s love and veracity (Genesis 3).
  • Abraham KNEW God had promised to give him a son by Sarah, and he famously BELIEVED that promise (Genesis 15:6). Yet he fell prey to Sarah’s foolhardy idea to have a child by their servant Hagar instead. The Bible still commends him for his faith, but his decision to opt for “Plan B” has had horrific consequences on the Middle East ever since.
  • John the Baptist KNEW Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and he boldly testified to that fact (John 1:29). But when he was thrown into prison by Herod, he began to have doubts. He had two of his disciples ask the Lord, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) How could a man who was such a bulwark of faith ask such a doubt-filled question?
  • The church in Jerusalem KNEW prayer was a powerful force, and that’s why they fervently prayed for Peter’ release from prison (Acts 12). But when their prayers were miraculously answered, it became obvious that there was lots of doubt mixed in with their intercession. They couldn’t believe it when Peter came knocking on the door—yet God had answered their prayers.

All of these are interesting accounts, and several of them are a counterbalance to the statement in James 1:6-8 that a double-minded person is “unstable in all his ways” and “won’t receive anything from the Lord.”

My favorite story about “doubting what you know” is found in Mark 9:14-29. A father had brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples, asking them to help the boy. However, they weren’t able to cast out the demon, so the father went to Jesus.

The Lord told this desperate man, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23). That’s one of the greatest memory verses in the Bible, isn’t it? Notice that Jesus didn’t just say SOME things are possible, but He said ALL things are possible if we simply believe.

How would we have responded if we were the father in this story? Some of us are so religious that we would have automatically given Jesus the correct theological answer. We would have assured Him of our great faith and told Him just to get on with the exorcism.

But this man was more honest than that:

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24)

This worried father was certain that he believed. Yet he also knew that unbelief lurked within his heart, mingled with his faith. Isn’t this also true of us most the time?

Fortunately, Jesus answered his prayer and did help him with his unbelief. That’s certainly good news for us as well. Amazingly, when we come to God with an honest heart, presenting to Him both our faith and our doubts, He often will still work miracles.

So, what about YOU? Are you trusting God today? Do you need Him to help you with your unbelief?

You can be comforted in this: Whatever you may be going through, all it really takes is a mustard seed of faith to get the breakthrough you need.

 

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Confessions of a Closet Buckeye

It’s confession time: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and have always been a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football team. But in recent years I have found myself becoming a “closet” fan, especially during bowl games. There were years when the Buckeyes had very good seasons, only to completely embarrass themselves in their bowl games.

So this season I was pretty quiet about the Buckeyes when they played Alabama in the semifinals and then had a chance to play the Oregon Ducks for the national championship. Even after their impressive victory over Alabama, I fully expected them to lose to Oregon.

For days I heard Ohio State ridiculed by most sports gurus, not to mention many of my friends. Many people thought Ohio State was lucky even to make it into the final four. And Oregon certainly was too fast, too talented, too powerful, too experienced.

Sure enough, Oregon’s offense dominated the Buckeyes on their first drive. Wow, this could get pretty ugly, I thought.

But the Buckeyes quickly bounced back, and they dominated the Ducks most of the night after that. The final score was an amazing 42-20.

A strange thing happened after the Buckeyes finally won. I found myself wanting to tell everyone that I’m a Buckeye fan! I was ready to get my Ohio State sweatshirt out of mothballs and proudly wear it everywhere I went.

Yes, I was again proud to be a Buckeye. Everyone loves to be associated with a winner, and the Buckeyes’ losses in previous bowl games became a faint memory.

There is a spiritual application to my experience as an Ohio State fan. Countless Christians in the U.S. have become “closet disciples.” Like Peter, warming his hands by the fire before Jesus’ crucifixion, we aren’t so sure we want to admit which team we are on. Who wants to be associated with a loser?

If I had been convinced Ohio State would win, I would have boldly worn by Buckeye sweatshirt before the game. In the same way, if we are absolutely sure Jesus will ultimately come as the victorious Lord of all, we won’t be ashamed to acknowledge Him now as the One we love and serve.

OK, maybe God doesn’t play favorites with football teams. But He does play favorites with His children. If He is for us, who can be against us? If we recognize that fact, we’ll be bold and strong, knowing that our victorious Lord is with us in the huddles and the battles of our lives.

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