On a balmy October afternoon in 1982, Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin was packed. More than 60,000 die-hard University of Wisconsin supporters were watching their football team take on the Michigan State Spartans. It soon became obvious that MSU had the better team.
What seemed odd, however, as the score became more lopsided, were the bursts of applause and shots of joy from the Wisconsin fans. How could they cheer when their beloved Badgers were losing so badly to the Spartans?
It turns out that 70 miles away, the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the 1982 World Series (That is a baseball game, for the uninitiated!)
Many of the fans in the stands in Madison that day were listening to portable radios – and responding to something other than their immediate circumstances. They were focusing on something that was unseen to them.
I can remember a similar incident occurring in my own life.
In January of 1978, my brother-in-law and I were in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, watching the Big 12 basketball tournamentheld there. We were rooting for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, as my brother-in-law was a graduate student there, and we were enjoying the game.
But I was also watching another game taking place at the same time. Through my binoculars, I was enjoying (quietly, as I had no radio with me), the Gator Bowl encounter between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Clemson Tigers, which was being broadcast in several of the VIP booths throughout the arena.
Granted it was not a huge-screen occurrence, but I was enjoying the game – well, sort of – Ohio State was losing.
But then I saw something I could not believe, and I said to my brother-in-law, who was engrossed in the basketball game taking place on the court below us, I cannot believe what I just saw – “Woody Hayes just slugged a Clemson player!”
The game in front of us suddenly took a back seat to the game in Jacksonville, Florida.
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul encourages us to fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:18 – “…while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”)
Oftentimes, it is very easy to focus our sights on what we can see – both the good and the bad. But when we concentrate on the unseen, we find that we can rejoice even in hardships, because then we can see Christ’s larger victory in our lives.
It may be fictitious, but there has been reported that at one time during the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, architect Sir Christopher Wren was leading the new prime minister of the nation on a tour through the construction site. The workers were very diligently devoting their efforts to their particular tasks, seemingly unmoved by the presence of their distinguished visitor.
As they passed through the various work sites inside the cathedral, the prime minister would stop to ask the workers what they were working on. The responses varied, from “I’m building a door” to “I’m cutting the glass to be inserted into this stained-glass window. Almost every response was given in such a matter-of-fact way that the prime minister was duly impressed.
Then they came to one worker who was diligently chiseling on a large stone in the middle of the floor, a rather typical scene on that day. His demeanor was different from all the others, though, in that he was whistling as he worked and was obviously enjoying what he was doing.
The prime minister stopped and asked him about his work, and how he could be so cheerful. The laborer, who remains nameless, responded with, “I am building St. Paul’s Cathedral, the most wonderful cathedral in the world!”
The prime minister responded with another question: “No, I mean what specifically are you doing?” The fellow replied, “I am chiseling this stone down here so that it will fit in up there”, and he pointed to the archway over his head.
Looking up, the prime minister saw that the last stone in the archway, the keystone, was all that was missing.
You know, that is an important truth for the Christian as well. “I am chiseling this stone down here so that it will fit in up there.” It helps us to understand why we may be suffering, or going through the trials that seem to plague us.
In the New Testament, we read in James 1:2-3: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
For the true Christ-follower in the real world today, God is at work in each of our lives to help us to “fit in up there!”
Count it all joy!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at email@example.com.