God is With You
In a game of chess usually the most powerful piece is the queen. The queen can move in any direction and as many squares as are open. However sometimes it is possible to create a situation where your opponent has no choice but to sacrifice the queen to avoid being checkmated or even simply to trap the queen so that there is no move that won’t result in the queen’s loss. If a person can take his opponent’s queen off the board with a lesser loss, then the chances of winning the game are usually enhanced. On the other side of the board if you lose your queen in such an uneven trade it can be demoralizing. Most games are like that. We talk about momentum. One team strikes a rhythm after getting an advantage and simply outplays the other team.
These illustrations can be a metaphor for life. Are you on the winning or losing side of the game? How is your momentum in life? Are you taking advantage of the turnovers, or are random occurrences putting you at a disadvantage?
Life has its ups and downs. As Jesus was speaking to his disciples he was warning them of a few different things. Jesus was their leader and teacher. They had spent the past three or four years doing what he told them to do and witnessing the miracles of God and faith in his presence. They had come to depend upon his direction and to consider him as the messiah. They believed that he was the one sent by God to assume leadership over their nation and deliver them to freedom, independence, and make of them a sacred nation living in true worship to God. Now instead of hearing good news about how Jesus was going to accomplish all of this, he is telling them that he would be leaving them. Not only this but he warns them that the world will be hostile toward them. They will be hated. He warned them of loss, persecution and even death, and to add insult to injury those doing the killing will say that they are the righteous of God and serving God.
This was not a good sign that their hopes will be fulfilled. How could Jesus be leaving them? If you are in a chess game, that is like bringing the queen out early and losing the piece on your third move. The momentum of life is not in their favor. Advantage is going over to the other side and it looks like it is going to be a rout. Jesus comments that he said he was going away and no one asked him where he was going. Could it be that they just could not process that reality? They did not even know what to make of the possibility.
It was in these moments that Jesus shared with them and us valuable truths for this journey in life; especially when we feel like the world is no longer on our side.
Recently I was watching the news about an increase in suicide attempts among teenagers. NBC Nightly News stated that “The number of kids making hospital visits for suicidal thoughts and actual suicide attempts increased 175 percent between 2008 and 2015.” Now the way I interpret that is that more young people are losing hope faster today then before. More young people are counting death as being preferable to life. How can that not illustrate a loss of hope? Couple that with the ever-increasing opioid epidemic. According to the national Institute on Drug Abuse, “Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.” That is almost 42,000 deaths a year.” To put that into perspective one quick statistic states that there are around 32,000 traffic fatalities in a year. More people are dying from opioids than from car crashes. Add to that the ever-increasing push to legalize marijuana. Now I know there are arguments a person can make for the medical use of marijuana. One can debate the topic of its legalization, but I can tell you what I have seen in life. There are a lot of times when people want to get high simply to anesthetize themselves from the pains and difficulties of life. People deal with the stresses and troubles of life by taking drugs. In the 1960’s a person once said “Turn on, tune in, drop out” In that perspective drugs were to be seen as an avenue for achieving a higher consciousness, but I have to ask if such drugs have been anything but a dead-end road for most people?
What I am arguing for is the idea that everyone faces a certain level of frustration in life. We sometimes find ourselves struggling to know what is right and true. Sometimes people struggle to cope with life. A lot of times people give up, loose hope, or search for answers where there are no answers.
Jesus disciples put their hope in Jesus presence and then that was taken away from them. How were they going to cope with such a loss? The good news is that he did not abandon them. He does not abandon us. In the midst of the game, with life putting us to the disadvantage, the momentum not being on our side, and the growing questions of what is right and true, we are not without hope. We are not alone. We are not without being able to know what is true and it has nothing to do with needing to get high or taking an overdose of pills. We never have to give up.
Jesus promised the disciples and us the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used here to describe the Holy Spirit is paraclete. It basically means one who walks along side of you. One who takes up your cause. There is a legal sense of the word in which the Holy Spirit represents your case about the truth of God within life. When you feel the world is standing against you remember that is God who will stand with you. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will “…prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.”
Within the Christian’s life truth takes a dramatic shift in our favor because of Jesus. That upon which life is grounded and has meaning sudden rises to meet us. He personal absence became our individual invitation to have a new life within the Spirit of God. There is the old and now there is the new. In the old life people struggle to establish a relationship with God. It was thought that Sin was overcome through following rules and laws. It was about how perfect you could live life and yet the Bible ultimately tells us that all have fallen short. Sin can not be overcome by one’s own strength. A relationship with God can not be accomplished through one’s own work, but the way to God has been given to us through Jesus. Through believing in him sin is overcome. That is why the world is wrong about sin because the world has failed to believe in him, and salvation comes to us in his name.
Closely associated with this new life in Christ is how we lie out our lives. The critics of Jesus accused him of being a drunkard and glutton, because he did not fast as they did, and he didn’t follow the fastidious religious rituals of washing before eating. They accused Jesus of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners, because he had disciples who had been tax collectors and he would eat with others like Zacchaeus. They doubted his righteousness because he allowed a prostitute to pour perfume on his feet, and he placed his hands upon a leper. Most of what Jesus did annoyed, irritated and cause others to criticize the way he lived, and yet everything he did was out of an attitude of love and care of God for others. All was done according to his desire to make God known to others. In the end result Jesus said the world will be proven wrong because he is the one who is received at the right hand of God now and forever. Therefore, as we also are in Christ and making Christ known we are not playing the part of the deceived or foolish, but we are living the life that leads to eternal life.
Finally, we are victors through him who loves us. Jesus said the world is wrong about the judgement because the ruler of this world has already been condemned. A lot of times we think of the judgement of God as that which is to come. We think that it is a future event, but John has a different perspective. John seems to argue that the judgement is already a done deal. John 3:18 reads, “18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Perhaps one can argue that the judgement is an eternal moment and the decision for a person or against a person is already decided, based upon what decision we make with regard to our belief in Christ. In truth there is no life to be found within the organizations and things of this world, but eternal life is found only in Christ. This is the judgement, and it is accomplished in the here and now according to what we believe in and rely upon.
Now all of this: forgiveness and salvation, a relationship with God, love, well being for one another, eternal life and joy are fulfilled within us and brought to life through the Holy Spirit. And if this comes to us through the Holy Spirit as a result of who Christ is and what Christ has done for us then that which is in the world which teaches us a different way, or a different hope is wrong. The Holy Spirit proves his case against the world by being the conduit through which every good thing of God is given to us, and we discover that it is within Christ that we have a great hope and a great confidence despite what seems to be the world’s advantage. We are not the ones that turn out to be fools in the end.
Since I began with a chess illustration I think I will end with one. If you know the game, then you know that toward the end there is a surefire way to win. Of all the pieces on the board the weakest and most plentiful is the lowly pawn, and yet if a player can move the pawn all the way to the opponent’s side of the board, that pawn can be promoted to any other type of piece. Even if you have one queen still on the board, your pawn can be turned into a second queen. Usually with most other pieces removed by that point in the game the new queen usually rules the entire board and soon wins the game.
As Christians we need to realize that in the end game God has placed all of us on the last square and promoted us to all power.
I know life is not easy. Sometimes we may think we are disadvantaged, or that the momentum of life has left us, but all we really need to do is to wait once again to feel and be empowered by the Spirit’s wind and breath within our lives again. It is then that the promises we have been given are again fulfilled and we have hope to spare. God will not only lift up our lives but use us for the sake of helping others as well. A life in the Spirit is our promise, our inheritance, and our eternal hope. Amen.