The Game Is Hopeless
It’s football season in America, and I’d like you to imagine a game for me. The two teams take the field and it soon becomes apparent they are decidedly mismatched. While one team is running up the score, the other is barely able to move the ball even a few yards toward the goal line before giving up possession.
The team that’s winning isn’t just better. It is merciless. There is no play they won’t try, no trick they won’t pull, and no rule they won’t break. And when it comes to breaking rules, there’s no penalty the officials won’t overlook. For the winning team, that is. The losing squad is being called for penalties every other play. Even worse, with every dirty play the poor team is losing players to injuries.
By the closing minutes of the fourth quarter the losers have only eleven players left, forcing them to be on the field for both offense and defense. One more injury and they forfeit. As the two minute warning comes and goes the only thing they can hope for is a swift clock to run out.
But before the brutes on the other team can launch what looks to be their final play, a miracle happens. The president of the football league comes down from the booth overlooking the stadium, walks onto the grass, takes the whistle from the referee and blows the play dead. Walking to the center of the field, in a voice loud enough for all in the stands and beyond to hear, the league’s leader says:
“The game is over, and I declare the team that never scored the winner. Let everyone congratulate their triumph!”
The Game Isn’t Hopeless
That game is not a fantasy, although when it happens it won’t be between two teams on a football field. It’s what Daniel saw in his vision two and a half millennia ago.
As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21-22.)
The horn in that passage is a great power, both worldly and spiritual, which will fight and – according to Daniel’s prophecy – defeat God’s people. We will not prevail against that power by earthly methods, nor even by spiritual means. The only way to win is for us to wait for God to put a stop to the battle and declare us the victors, to pronounce judgment in our favor.
This is the same victory John saw and recorded in his Revelation.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. … Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. (Revelation 19:11, 15.)
This is Jesus, the Word of God from eternity past. He strikes down any opposition with what comes from his mouth, the word of God which we are told has spiritual power beyond our imagining:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13.)
It is this ability to judge rightly because he sees everything without cover or obscurity that gives confidence in God’s judgment. The football game analogy isn’t perfect, but there is something to say for a higher authority – who has seen a team get away with one dirty play after another without penalty – stepping in to set things right for that week’s game.
When Jesus steps in and utters the word of triumph it will be for eternity.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4.)
There was a time when I didn’t understand the line in A Mighty Fortress Is Our God which says “one little word shall fell him.” But it turns out Martin Luther really did know what he was talking about when he wrote:
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing; …
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
It is God’s word of judgment that defeats Satan and declares us the victors, all because of the work of Jesus for us. The odds may appear to be stacked against you, the game may seem rigged, the officials who are supposed to be calling penalties fairly may turn a blind eye, but in the end you already know the outcome.
You win because Jesus has won.