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The Finish Line

I know in my life, God works by themes and for whatever reason the theme of this week is hope. Yesterday, I was reminded that hope is developed in my heart when peace and joy are present in sufficient quantities. Today I read Psalm 96 and was reminded that hope is tied together with the finish line. Here is how it happened. I was reading these words in verses 11-13, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD . . .”
My mind started focusing on all the good things God has done for me and the privilege I have in knowing Him. I also reflected on how His greatness is displayed in the world He has made. In the past two weeks I have experienced the soothing sunshine of Southern California, the majestic forest of the Oregon coast and the never-ending greenery of the land around Greer’s Ferry Lake in Arkansas. The idea of the forest singing, waves clapping and all creation rejoicing were vividly apparent.
Then my mind was jolted by the rest of verse 13, ” . . . for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
All creation rejoices because God will judge the earth. At first, those two thoughts didn’t go together for me. Judgment seems too harsh a reality to be connected with worship and celebration so it stopped me in my tracks. I have been thinking since I read it, “Why did the Psalmist connect these two thoughts?”
I am sure I am going to be dwelling on this question for the rest of the day but the first conclusion I reached was that races are celebrated at the finish line. Everything before the conclusion of the contest is turmoil, competition, struggle, and uncertainty. Combatants are wrestling against the elements, each other, and potential danger in order to be declared the winner. Just yesterday, Marcos Ambrose won the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen amidst two crashes on the final lap.
In any competition, you see lots of rejoicing at the finish line by the winner but you see agony and determination while the contest is in action. Our lives are a lot like this. While we are living here on earth, we compete against spiritual forces, economic challenges, good and bad decisions by people in authority, natural disasters, and the evil intentions of others. It will not always be like this, however. One day God will judge the world and all things will be made right. A lot of people complain about this and try to convince us that it is not loving or kind or compassionate for God to sit in judgment of our lives. My response today is, “Can you imagine what it would be like if the game never ended? What if runners just had to run and run without a finish line? What if ballgames had no ending? What if your challenges in life never stopped – ever?” That would be cruel, pointless and terribly discouraging. We all compete for the possibility of the reward and count on the fact that the struggle is temporary.
Today I am praising God with all my heart because I know there will be great rejoicing at the finish line.

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