When the World Cup began a month ago, Argentina was favored to defeat Brazil in the final. France was predicted to lose in the knockout stage; Croatia was not expected to get that far.
As half the world watched yesterday, France defeated Croatia to win the title.
Before Saturday morning, few people had heard of Angelique Kerber, while Serena Williams has been recognized as the greatest tennis player of all time. Then Kerber defeated Williams to win the Wimbledon championship.
This time last year, Novak Djokovic was out of tennis and dealing with an elbow injury that required surgery. Yesterday he won the men’s Wimbledon title in straight sets.
Now the world is watching as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin prepare for their summit in Helsinki, Finland. According to Fox News, the two are expected to discuss Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, Putin’s forcible annexation of Crimea, sanctions imposed by the US in response to that annexation, the conflict in Syria, and nuclear arms control.
However, it is impossible to predict what will actually come from their meeting.
Facing an unpredictable future
The Soviet Union was our World War II ally, then it became our bitter Cold War enemy, then it became our ally in democracy, then it became whatever it is today under Putin. Are the Russians helping us defeat ISIS and counter Iran in the Middle East? Or are they undermining our democracy and electoral process? Or both?
Is a recession more likely after ten years of economic expansion, twice the average length since 1945? Or are market fundamentals so sound that a continuing bull market is more likely?
The legal status of abortion has been secure since the Supreme Court’s tragic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Now the nation is asking whether abortion will become more restricted if Judge Brett Kavanaugh wins confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Religious liberty was a bedrock value of American democracy before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, pitting those who affirm biblical marriage against those who champion “marriage equality.” In our relativistic, sexually promiscuous culture, it’s not hard to guess who will win a battle between religious freedom and sexual freedom.
Whether Judge Kavanaugh wins confirmation or not, it’s impossible to predict what decisions the Court will make on these critical issues. President Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, who authored the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage. George W. Bush nominated John Roberts, who cast the deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act.
The Gibeonites “acted with cunning”
Let’s consider an essential biblical principle for navigating volatile times.
In Joshua 9, the Jewish army is waging war in Canaan against enemies dedicated to their extermination. The Israelites are working under a clear divine mandate to destroy these tribes, lest their idolatry and immorality tempt the Jewish people into sin.
However, the inhabitants of Gibeon “acted with cunning” in convincing Joshua and the Jewish leaders that they came from a far-off land (v. 4). Archaeological finds confirm that Gibeon was actually just six miles northwest of Jerusalem.
When the Gibeonites presented themselves before Joshua and claimed to be a distant nation, “the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord” (v. 14). As a result, they made a covenant of peace with a nation they should have defeated in war.
Looking back over four decades, I can testify that most of the mistakes I have made in ministry came from acting for God before talking to him. It is presumptuous for finite, fallen humans to think we can know the mind of the Lord without asking him. As the saying goes, “Don’t get ahead of God–he may not follow.”
Will you ask God to be God today?
I have no idea who will win the next World Cup in four years or what will come of the Helsinki summit. But I do know this: God gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.
David observed that God “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). However, we must be humble to be taught.
James counseled us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). However, we must admit that we lack wisdom.
We cannot influence our culture publicly for Christ unless we are influenced by him personally.
Frederick Buechner notes that in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done” is “the climax of the first half of the prayer. We are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want, but what God wants. We are asking God to make manifest the holiness that is now mostly hidden, to set free in all its terrible splendor the devastating power that is now mostly under restraint.”
Will you ask God to be God today?