As the NFL preseason kicked off, one of the lingering questions that was heard repeatedly from pundits and fans alike concerned one of the game’s biggest stars—Peyton Manning. Following his missed 2011 campaign in Indianapolis, the multiple surgeries, the months of rehab, and his switching horses (from Colts to Broncos), one question persisted: What would happen the first time Peyton took a hard hit? During the first preseason game, no hard hit was delivered to Manning so the questions continued. Manning insisted that it was no big deal… but people wondered.
Then, in Saturday night’s game (the Broncos’ second preseason game), with 1:25 remaining in the first half, Manning took a huge hit from Seattle Seahawks rookie Bruce Irvin… and got up. The next play Manning completed a 22-yard pass to Brandon Stokley with a perfectly thrown bullet—and the entire state of Colorado gave a huge sigh of relief. All the “what-ifs” had been answered. The fears had been faced. Number 18 was still in the game and throwing hard, so there was still hope for the 2012 campaign.
Sometimes, our fears have more to do with the unknowns and what-ifs of life than with the actual realities. The fear of the unknown can be a terrible thing, in part because our hearts haunt us with doubts and worst-case-scenarios for which we are pretty sure we are unprepared. That was certainly the case with the church at Thessalonica. In the first century, as the scriptures were being written and doctrine was still being collected and purified, the Thessalonians feared what would happen to loved ones who had been taken by death. In fact, they were so concerned that they sent word to the apostle Paul to ask what would happen to followers of Christ who have died. Paul answered them with good news that could calm their fears when he wrote:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:13-18)
“Comfort one another” must have sounded pretty good to them. In the fist part of his answer, Paul reminds them that hope in Christ is real and is substantial. The joy of reunion could replace the fear of loss because there is this hope in Christ that surpasses all the unknowns, fears, and what-ifs that we will ever face. As we face the challenges of life, we can take heart—our hope is in the Lord, and He knows the answers to all of our questions and He knows our hearts’ deep need for hope.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain