I’m not a fan of a lot of the popular talent shows on TV. I downright hate programs where people are booted off the island or out of the house or eliminated from the list of contenders for the prize. It’s not the striving for excellence part that bothers me; it’s how easily people are rejected.
Sometimes fine folk are jettisoned, not because they lack talent, but because they don’t understand how the game is played. I had a student who tried out for a very popular talent show for singers. She had all the right stuff. Beauty, voice, flexibility, brains, charisma – that illusive “It” factor. This girl had her act together! She prepared a stunning audition piece, but she never even made the first cut. She was devastated, even after the judge told her the reason she was not accepted.
“You’re too good,” he confided. “This is a game show. This is entertainment. We are looking for people we can take credit for transforming from raw potential into a star. But thanks for playing. Next!”
She lost her faith in the contest system that day.
Can I admit that for years I harboured a secret fear of being rejected by God because I didn’t understand how the game was played? For a while I lost faith in his goodness. I had trouble believing he loved me. What if I reached the great day of judgment and faced elimination because I missed a clue as to what it takes to please him? Everything in my experience taught me that non-winners lose – and sometimes I lost because I didn’t understand the rules.
I still blow it. I charge right through warnings not to get involved in controversies without any insight but my own. I seek comfort in people, places, and things other than God’s provision. I give up on folks who are hard to love. Like the contest producers, I am also one who likes to collect friends who will make me look good.
When the Lord kindly points out areas in my life that are not working the old question pops up. “I’ve failed again, Lord. I know I don’t deserve it, but do you love me? Are you going to say, ‘Thanks for playing. Next!?’ Do I still have a place in your heart?”
This week I came across a verse in 2 Timothy 2 that I hadn’t noticed before. I did remember the verse before it that said if we deny God he will deny us. (The ability to love necessitates being given the ability to choose not to love and he honours our choice to reject him). But I hadn’t noticed this one before:
If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
There is a difference between knowing who God is and choosing to dis-own him, and struggling with faith in his faithfulness – especially faith that he loves us and doesn’t play games. His love is not conditional on finding a use for us in a show that makes him look good. He desires relationship with “losers.” He is willing to have his reputation tarnished by fragile people who do not have their act together.
Does God rely on your faith? No. He relies on his faithfulness and his inability to be anything other than what he is. He is faithfulness. He is love. Faith and love are gifts he gives you so that you have something to give back to him.
Faith and love originate with him. We don’t need (or have the ability) to conjure them up. We have a great high priest in Jesus Christ, who understands our weaknesses. In our earthly bodies we are more like delicate flowers than titanium blocks, but he chooses to contain his light in our fragility. He is not disappointed. He had no illusions about us in the first place. He loves because he loves.
His promise: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
He remains faithful because he is faithful – and he cannot deny who he is.