The Power of “Will”

Posted on Apr 11, 2016 in Faith | 69 comments

IMG_4332Happy Resurrection Day, Readers! Following is a copy of my recent e-mail newsletter:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

First, thank you to all who responded to my Christmas message about “bending our knees” to experience God’s great and miraculous power. At the end of that letter, I mentioned God showed me something else I wanted to share. This Holy Week–reflecting on Christ’s crucifixion and rejoicing in His resurrection–seems the perfect time.

The setting was my New York hotel room, late at night. It had been a long, fun-filled first day at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and I was now in bed, exhausted but happy to be watching on television my favorite player, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, in his second round match against Italy’s Fabio Fognini. For many years “Rafa” had been my favorite; besides being one of the most winning singles players in the history of men’s tennis, he’d always displayed exemplary sportsmanship on court and humility in post-match interviews. To see him play in person here at the Open would surely be the highlight of my trip.

But my “day pass” hadn’t included this night match, so I was watching on TV. As much as I wanted to stay awake, it was almost midnight, and my eyelids were wanting to close more. But that was okay; Rafa had won the first two sets and was ahead in the third. He’d hopefully win this set and the match, and I’d be able to see him play in the next round.

The next morning, while preparing to leave for the National Tennis Center, I caught a glimpse of ESPN’s “BottomLine.” I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Rafa had lost. The match had gone five sets. It’d been an unbelievable come-from-behind win for Fognini. A major upset in the world of tennis, a huge loss for Rafa.

I stood staring at the TV, stunned. How could this have happened?

I was so sad for my favorite player. Only yesterday I’d been hoping Rafa would win the U.S. Open and be that much closer to holding the most Grand Slam Titles of all time; now he was out in the second round? I was disappointed I wouldn’t get to see him play in person, but tenfold more for how HE must be feeling.

Back at the tournament, I began seeing more disappointment. More loss. You’d think I’d have been more emotionally prepared, having played tennis most of my life and knowing that loss generally occurs in every tennis match, but certain losses that day seemed especially devastating.

Like when 34-year-old Australian Lleyton Hewitt (pictured above) fought back from two sets down for over three and a half hours only to lose a very tight fifth set.

I felt terrible for him. After trying so hard, giving the match everything he had, to simply lose was so sad. So disappointing.

But the very next day, Hewitt was back, playing doubles. Looking as resilient as ever.

And guess what? I never saw on ESPN’s “BottomLine” that Rafa had quit tennis…that his loss had been too great, too painful for him to continue playing. Instead, since the U.S. Open, Rafa has been in his own words, “working hard,” and even made it to the finals of the China Open weeks later (where, I might add, he beat Fognini in the semi-finals).

I wish I could say I’m as noble. But I can’t, because I’m not. I quit tennis when I was 15 years old after losing a third set I “shouldn’t have” at the Corley Cup here in Colorado Springs.

And I’d like to report I’ve matured with age, that enduring loss and disappointment in life–off the tennis court–comes easily to me now, but that would be a lie, too. The truth is I’ve struggled terribly with loss, I’ve been crushed by disappointment, and, more times than I’d like to admit, I’ve wanted to quit life.

Maybe that’s why Rafa’s and Hewitt’s resilience is so impressive to me. Why God showcased their perseverance to me. I don’t know where they get their resolve to press on, but I do know, because of my own faith journey, where God wants us to get ours.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

God wants us to hope in Him. In the truth of His Word. In His power of His love.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

“Hoping in the LORD” will look different for every person, in every heartbreak and loss, but however God “renews our strength” and empowers us to “soar on wings like eagles” becomes our own personal resurrection.

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear….Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I” (Isaiah 58:8-9).

In the toughest times of my life, when I have “hoped in the LORD”–sought Him in the darkness and emptiness and pain–God has always shown up. In His way and time, He’s given me “beauty instead of ashes,” bringing blessing from my suffering, and, most importantly, I’ve grown closer to Jesus–the greatest joy and peace in life (Isaiah 61:3).

This Holy Week–especially for those of you needing hope and strength to persevere–my prayer is that you believe new life can come from your darkest hour. “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). We have an awesome God, and we always have hope because Jesus lives.

Years ago, as I was “hoping in the Lord,” opening my Bible more and more, I kept noticing a particular word that would always brighten my outlook. It’s just a little word, but if you believe it, it changes everything.

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5).

“…the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end” (Isaiah 60:20b).

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

“Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs” (Isaiah 61:7).

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

There is no “maybe” in “will.” “Will” denotes a promise by God, for us who believe.

The promises above are, of course, a mere handful in the veritable treasure chest of God’s Word. The Bible is brimming with promises of blessing and joy for us who seek.

We have an awesome God indeed. A God Who raised Jesus from the dead, Who currently in my backyard is bringing new, green buds out of old, brown branches, a God fully capable of “resurrecting” us from any kind of pain. Whether you’ve lost a child, a marriage, a leg, a job or a dream, God is bigger than the pain and can carry you through it. “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Our part is to hope in Him.

This Holy Week, and really every day all year long, may we celebrate the awesomeness of our God and find comfort, hope and joy in Jesus: “On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:19).

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