Hanging in our coat closet is a very old jacket. The body is black wool and the arms gold leather. On the left chest there is a letter S. It stands for Southeast, the name of my high school. The jacket, black and gold is my high school letter jacket. The S means I was good at a couple of things. I played basketball and I ran track... hurdles. I was a Knight, class of 1975. I will let you do the math! The jacket still fits... mostly... and it is well worn. I wore it with pride those years. We all did. But when I look at the jacket now, I don't think about games played, hurdles cleared or the bumps and bruises I received. I think about our high school basketball coach.
Denny Peltz was not a giant of a man in height. He wore yellow, supposed to be gold, coaches' shorts. There was always a whistle around his neck, and he was not afraid to use it. His voice was LOUD, and he wasn't afraid to use that either. In the classroom, the weight room and on the court, we could always hear coach. Always! He yelled for emphasis. He yelled when we messed up. He yelled at officials. And he had one phrase he used over and over. Sometimes loud, and once in a great while he spoke quietly. Over and over he told us... you gotta believe. It was his mantra. And it was always accompanied by clapping his hands. If we were in the weight room and we were dog tired and couldn't lift any more here he came... you gotta believe. And we would keep going. It mattered not if we were ahead or behind in a game, the mantra was the same... you gotta believe. A bad shooting night...you gotta believe. Down on a teammate... you gotta believe. I can hear his voice in my head right now.
Coach's mantra still rings true today. We gotta believe. We gotta believe we will make it through this pandemic and come out better on the other side. We gotta believe God has a plan and He is working it out. We gotta believe in one another because we are all we have. We gotta believe in our own strengths and abilities. After all, God gave them to us. We gotta believe that love conquers all, that faith, hope and love abide these three, but the greatest of these is love. We gotta believe Jesus was shooting straight when He said He would be with us always. We gotta believe God loved us enough to send His son to die in our place so we can spend eternity with Him.
The Israelites had to believe Moses really did have their best interests at heart. Joseph had to believe God did have a plan for him even though being in prison in Egypt didn't seem like the plan. And Joseph had to believe when the angel Gabriel told him it was OK to take Mary for his wife because they were part of God's grand plan for salvation. The disciples struggled to believe the tomb was empty, but Jesus set them on the right path, and they believed. From the beginning we have been called to believe, to have faith. Because... "Nothing will be impossible for God.” Luke 1:37. And Jeremiah 32:27. When we put our full heart, mind and faith in the Lord anything is possible. Ask Noah, Moses, Joseph, or Joseph, Mary, Saul/Paul or countless others...or people you now know. It is true. And once we have a history of knowing the things of God are true, it is easier to believe.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight.” We are called to believe in things we do not and cannot see. This is a test of our faith. Coach would say... you gotta believe. This does not make things easier. The phrase is meant to be encouragement... then and now. Because you see, if we do not believe, whatever the case might be, we don't have much of a chance. Not believing in the strengths and gifts God has given us means we probably will not use them to their fullest, if at all. Not believing in those God has given us to journey with, means we will journey alone and often that means we stop our journeys. Believing in God for us means we believe in One we have never seen. We may have seen evidence of His handiwork, but we have never seen Him. In John 20:29 we read, "Then Jesus told him, because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It is strange but true, there is more power in not seeing and yet believing.
It is human nature to falter in our believing when life is a challenge. Perhaps you are there right now. You have been on lockdown for weeks; months and you are going stir crazy. Maybe you are battling health issues and you are tired of the fight. Home schooling is making you and your kids close to going round the bend. Wondering what happens next leaves you on edge. There are people worried about jobs and rent. What is God up to and when will things go back to normal.
I know you can't hear coaches voice in your head, but you might be able to hear mine. Now more than ever... you gotta believe. Jesus is still on the throne. God is still Sovereign.
And we are still...
In His grip
Pastor Matt W