I recently found an old journal entry dated March 12, 2001 which was a few weeks before my first stem cell transplant. I smiled as I read about a high school championship basketball team, knowing the point guard was sitting with my wife downstairs. Sherill has lived with us this past year while coaching at a local university. Last week she made Susan and me fill out an NCAA tournament bracket. With March Madness in full gear, perhaps this journal entry is a good reminder:
I’ve discovered a sure way to get in the newspapers: retire from coaching, discover you have cancer; then watch your old team win a state championship. I’m so proud of the girls and coaches for their great accomplishment this season. It is a little different sitting in the stands… but I kind of enjoyed it.
With present circumstance, my thoughts seem to quickly shift to eternal perspectives. As I was walking to my seat before Saturday’s championship game, I heard one fan say to another: “Now this is what it is all about.” I know what he meant and I’ve probably made similar statements, but the truth of the matter is – no basketball game is what it is all about.
In Hebrews 11 we find many heroes of faith, imperfect humans like us who knew God existed and believed He rewarded those who earnestly pursue Him. Some were victorious here on earth; some were martyred; all were praised. In chapter 12, the author says we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” Like the host of fans who cheered for our team Saturday, I wonder if the “witnesses” are cheering for us. If they could give advice, what would they say? Here’s my guess:
“Children of God walking the earth… listen to us! We have been where you are and we are now where you want to be. We all endured difficult trials, but know this: it is worth it. Your life on earth is a vapor… but life here is forever. You know the truth… but you must live what you believe! Remember what life is all about!
“If you are confused about what it is all about, the enemy has an edge. God does not want His children to be confused. He loves with an unfathomable love… a love that surrounds us now. By faith you can know this love on earth as you remember how He saved you through Jesus. Look to the Author and Perfecter of your faith… in Him you have life! As you put your faith in the Son you gain access to every blessing needed to live victoriously. In Christ you are free to bring glory to God… in Christ you find what life is all about.
“You are the player; Jesus is the Coach. Do everything He tells you for He knows what is best. He may call you to do things that seem impossible, but the One who calls you will empower you. He has given you the Holy Spirit who comforts, counsels, and instructs. Listen to the Spirit and walk by faith.
“You know you are closer to the return of the King than anyone who has ever lived. In your day there is much darkness. People are living like ‘the visible’ is what it is all about. But you know ‘things seen’ are temporary while ‘things unseen’ are eternal. Live in the eternal! Put on the full armor of God each day. Each one of you is given a race to run. Your race may look different from your neighbor’s, but the destination is the same. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
“Endure hardship as a good soldier. Do not lose heart; do not grow weary in doing good; do not get distracted by the lesser things. Keep your eyes on a different Country. There is nothing on earth worth more than your soul. Be totally abandoned to your Creator. As you live by faith, you will find He is faithful and true. One day He will bring us all together. No one can imagine all the Father has in store for His children!”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3