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June 21, 2020

It could have been a moment of glory. It wasn’t! It was a big High School football game and I was the center. I snapped the ball back to the quarterback, started blocking downfield, he handed off to the running back and as the running back went by me, he fumbled the ball. One bounce and right into my hands. I paused, not sure what to do, and then I started running (in the right direction) for 51 yards and was tackled 4 yards short of the goal line. We scored on the next play. (Then the glory came). I came to the sidelines and coach asked me why I didn’t score. I replied: “Coach, I had 5 or 6 guys on me, and I was out of breath!” He looked at me with a big smile and said: “Excuses, excuses, excuses!”
“As he entered the subterranean chamber, Bilbo saw the dragon sprawled atop a great heap of treasure, sleeping. He was at first overawed by the sight of the beast, but then, snapping to his senses, he seized a heavy golden cup and lugged it back up the tunnel. When he arrived at the doorway, the dwarves praised him repeatedly and began to talk about how soon all the treasure would be theirs. Then Smaug awoke and noticed that the cup was missing. Bellowing with rage, he issued from the front gate. Bilbo and the dwarves had barely scrambled inside the passage when Smaug swooped down, blistering the slopes with his burning breath. The dragon circled the mountain all night searching for them, but he never saw them. Despite their desperate situation – trapped inside the tunnel, most of their supplies gone – they refused to give up. They’d known from the beginning that reclaiming treasure from a dragon had its risks. The dwarves had become deeply discouraged before, ‘yet they would not give up and go away.’ (The Hobbit, Chapter 11) Despite becoming dispirited again and again, they had persevered. They’d already suffered so many hardships in their quest, and if they had given up then, all their privations and pain would’ve been for nothing.” (Ed Strauss, A Hobbit Devotional)
In the New Testament, when the Christians of Galatia were beginning to get off track and give up, Paul asked, “Have you suffered so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain?” (Galatians 3:4) Many Christians in Rome ended up at the same crossroads. They’d previously stood strong despite suffering and persecution, yet now they were facing a new test and wavered in their faith. So, God urged them, ‘Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict of suffering.’ He reminded them how they’d been slandered, persecuted, even imprisoned for what they believed – but they hadn’t given up. So, he encouraged them to hang on a little longer, saying, ‘So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised’ (Hebrews 10:32,35-36).
“At times we, too, feel we can’t go on much longer. We’ve been through a lot, we’ve stood strong through the years, and we’ve come a long way. We were making it, but frankly we were feeling a little worn out. Then, suddenly, we’re blindsided by an accident, the loss of a major client, a relationship mess, or something else we have no idea how to deal with. We sit with our head in our hands, barely able to pray. Wasn’t God supposed to be with us to protect us? we think. Why did He allow this to happen? Is this some test? If it is, we surely didn’t need this!
We know we’re near the end of our quest, almost in sight of our goal, but it all seems so hard at this point. Our hope of heaven is so distant and so overshadowed by our present trials and temptations that it barely seems worth focusing on. We feel like dropping our faith by the wayside. This is when we need the tenacity of the dwarves. Like them, we simply must refuse to give up and go away.
Fortunately, as discouraged as we feel, we usually don’t give up completely. Even when we’re angry at God for allowing us some misfortune, we usually don’t abandon our faith. But oftentimes, like the dwarves, we sullenly hunker down inside a mountain and do nothing. We stop going to church, we lose our desire to pray, and we don’t read our Bible. In short, we take a “time-out from God. Yet the issue all along isn’t God. It’s the devil who’s fighting us. So we must fight back – against Satan and against despair. Yes, it’s one honkin’ huge dragon we’re up against. But we knew that when we started out. When we feel discouraged or defeated, we need to remind ourselves of our earlier days, when we endured great suffering because we believed it would be worth it all in the end. And it was! And it still is worth fighting for. God will see to it that all our suffering is rewarded… if only we hang on. (Ed Strauss)
Sometimes it does seem like the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we just cannot go on. We think of excuses to stop or to pause when maybe just another step was needed, and we would be victorious. Do not be discouraged or defeated but keep going forward. God bless and God’s got this!

About Derek Freymiller

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