We’ve got to pick a story

Published 12:23 pm Friday, May 11, 2018

by Charles Qualls

Wayne Gretzky was one of the greatest hockey players the game has ever known. I am confident of this not because of my own prowess at hockey. Goodness knows, I’ve hardly ever laced up a pair of skates.

One only needed to have watched a lot of ESPN back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, or pick up the occasional sports page to see his name constantly. He didn’t just play well. He dominated his sport in a way that few others have in any game, at any level. Or you could just remember that his fellow players nicknamed him The Great One.

Looking at Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have revealed why he was so good. He was a very average-looking athlete. Of this, he knew. He didn’t skate particularly faster than any others. He certainly wasn’t large for a professional. So, when one reporter asked him after his career had ended what his secret might have been, Gretzky said something surprising:

“I probably didn’t have any real physical advantages over the other players. But, I did seem to do one thing better than others. So, I used this for all I was worth. My anticipation of where the puck was going seemed better than everyone else’s. So, I would just skate as hard as I could to that spot and I usually got an extra couple of seconds advantage to work with. That really was my best thing.”

Trying to envision where God wants a church to go can be a tricky thing. Because we only see what we see, and only know what we know.

In Numbers 14: 1-10, the Israelites arrived on the precipice of the Promised Land. The Land of Canaan. They sent 12 spies in to get a good look around. Then, they waited for the report.

You remember this story about Israel’s spies. They came back out, successful in their mission. All of them made it back, due in great part to the help they received in one city from a woman named Rahab who hid them at her place after word had gotten out among the local leaders that spies were indeed in the land. They had a close brush with death there, but she covered for them.

Now, the report was given in chapter 13, just before the text you heard from chapter 14 today. It started off sounding really good. This was a representative group, you know. One leading citizen from every ancestral tribe, chapter 13 told us. No Levites, though. Not a preacher was among the 12.

It all started off promising enough. They had hoisted a single cluster of fruit that took two men carrying it on a pole between them, so lush and productive was the land. This was a desirable place to live! However, the news grew discouraging. The people who inhabited the land were quite large, giants by some descriptions. They were mighty and formidable. In the end, only two spies felt that with God’s help they Israelites could conquer the land. Ten recommended they not even try.

Life puts some big decisions in front of us. Individuals, families, churches and cities can find themselves looking at confusing circumstances. Simplistic answers, including ones sometimes couched in the language of faith, don’t always serve us well. For instance, I spend time occasionally with church members who seek my counsel because all of their options about caring for a loved one seem to be bad ones.

Especially when the mysterious callings of God seem to be directing us, eventually we have to just make the best decision we can. We have to muster the trust and courage to step out. I feel for the Israelites in that story.

However, time proved that they made a generational mistake in that instance, not trusting God’s leadership.

I wonder in what areas of my life I can come up a little lacking in the trust department? How could I know a little better when my lack of control is truly keeping me from doing what it seems pretty clear God wants me to?

Truth is, far too little of life ever seems clear enough to suit us. However between the teachings of Christ and the movement of the Spirit in our lives, discerning God’s greatest hopes is probably easier than a lot of us let on. Ultimately, I think it’s my trust that can be murky if anything. God’s guidance is rock solid. How about you?

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.