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Sports Spectrum Daily Devotional - Wednesday, September 19, 2018

God in our victories … and defeats

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you’ve heard and seen — the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me'” — Matthew 11:4-6 (NLT)

As Jesus followers and sports fans, we love seeing high-profile Christian athletes giving glory to God during their victory speeches, postgame interviews or after they’ve won a championship. It was inspiring to see how God worked in the Super Bowl-champion Eagles locker room last year. We rejoice seeing a player like Steph Curry leading the Golden State Warriors to another NBA championship with Scripture on his shoes. These athletes inspire us to believe that if we have enough faith, God will give us whatever our heart desires. 

But what about the times when things don’t go the way we planned? When high-profile Christian athletes are in a slump, or have just suffered a defeat, they tend to fall by the wayside with regard to attention from the media and Christian sports fans alike. And usually their struggles are only mentioned in a footnote after they have ascended back into the winner’s circle. Sometimes players of faith are even mocked when things look down and out.

In November 2010, Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills dropped an easy catch in the end zone that cost his team the game. He famously tweeted out afterward: “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS???? HOW??? I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!!! EVER!!! THX THO…” While it can be easy to self-righteously criticize Johnson for this emotional outburst, we’ve all probably done something similar at one point or another in our lives, even if we only express it privately. 

In Matthew 11:3, John the Baptist asked Jesus, “Are You the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (NLT). John was a political prisoner who was facing execution in a very degrading way because he had dared to mock the queen of the political establishment. The fact that Jesus would let him suffer was counter intuitive to what he expected because of his relationship to the Messiah. Jesus responds to him by telling him God’s work is being done and not to lose faith. Jesus wasn’t asking John to go through anything He Himself wasn’t willing to go through. 

This Bible passage is an encouraging, yet humbling, reminder that God’s love and favor isn’t dependent on our current situation. God wants to use us for His glory even when we don’t always understand why we’re going through trials.

The Philadelphia Eagles won their first game of the 2018 season with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The stories of how God worked in the Eagles locker room are resurfacing and inspiring us again as we’re reminded of last year’s Super Bowl victory.

One story from last year’s Super Bowl that seems to have flown under the radar actually came from the losing New England Patriots locker room. Brandin Cooks was knocked out the game early in the second quarter after a vicious blindside hit from the Eagles’ Malcom Jenkins. After the game, Cooks tweeted, “Whatever you’re up to God I know it’s for your glory! #Thankful.” What a powerful testimony in the face of a disappointing day. 

So when you’re going through trials, remember that God’s love for you isn’t dependent on your situation. Seek God in all situations and His plan will slowly come into focus. And remember God’s plan always leads to victory.

Andrew Pepper

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