Pastoral Ponderings- Lessons from the End Zone
It felt like (though I’m glad it never smelled like) we were spending the week in the locker room for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles team this past week, for what our speaker described as “training camp.” The very dynamic teacher for our continuing education event this week is Pastor Ted Winsley, chaplain to the Philadelphia Eagles (how many times did he point out they won the Super Bowl??), and author of the book detailing some of the lessons the Eagles were learning a few years ago with their most recent Super Bowl victory, entitled View from the End Zone.
The week was an exploration of the tests that Jesus people go through—whether what we see of as trying times, those experiences that test our faith and peace, or those times of difficult temptations, as Jesus faced in His wilderness experience at the beginning of His ministry. The two facets that seem most significant to me were that these “tests” we often think of as from God, and that we all go through times in the wilderness that God can use to grow and deepen our faith.
Building from the kinds of tests Jesus faced, he was building the case that such tests are NOT for GOD’s benefit, as if for God to see what is in our hearts, as God already knows that, but tests for OUR benefit for us to see what is in our hearts. When we KNOW deep down in our souls who we are as deeply loved children of God, that changes everything!
Secondly, he was reminding us that we ALL have times in the wilderness, some more, some less troublesome, but in all of them, not that God causes them, but God uses them anyway to work for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purposes, as our Romans 8 passage just reminded us on Sunday. Sometimes it is more clear to us, sometimes less, that most of the times of testing or wilderness we find ourselves in, are rooted somewhere in sin and brokenness, not “caused” by God.
Even when serious illness or loss is the wilderness we’re facing, the cause is more in our mindset and how we think about and experience those “tests.” So with something like cancer or death, it is not the thing in itself that is the test, but how we face it, how we think about it. We want to say “why me?” but with spiritual eyes, perhaps we should be thinking “Why NOT me?” If God is for us—even in such a wilderness—then who can be against us? Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time for everything—death and illness included—and when we go though such times of wilderness and come through victorious, isn’t that such a powerful testimony to those around us who don’t know God’s grace and peace that passes all understanding?
It’s the coach’s job to build the team up, and to help reshape the mindset to bring out the best, to bring out the strength and drive to run the race with endurance. Coach Ted did that so well, and I’d encourage you to take a knee in the locker room, too, to review some tapes of how the team has been playing, and how our mindset brings out the victory. Keep on keepin’ on! Coach Jim
(link for article on Pastors Ted and Dawn Kinsley, Philadelphia Eagles: https://6abc.com/philadelphia-eagles-super-bowl-2023-pastors-ted-and-dawn-winsley-the-family-church/12760343/ )