The continuing situation created by the coronavirus pandemic makes it tempting as a coach to adopt the same “survive and advance” mentality you have at tournament time. You just try to survive the present game/match so that you can advance to a better game/match. During the pandemic, you’re just trying to survive the present situation (including the lack of sports) until things advance enough to get back to a better situation (including the return to normal sports activities).
In the last devotion, we talked about the pitfall of getting sucked into anxious speculation about the future. Even as by God’s grace we resist worrying about the future, we face another potential pitfall: a “just survive” perspective in the present. Why can this mentality be harmful? It can cause us to miss the full experience of what God is doing right now because we’re more focused on biding our time until a “better” future arrives.
Psalm 16 opens with the psalmist praying, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” He’s obviously facing a challenging situation. But rather than adopting a “survive and advance” approach, listen to the psalmist’s perspective in vv. 7-8: “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Here’s what the psalmist is doing: he focuses on God’s presence in the present. He worships God in the present, listens to God in the present, looks for God in the present, trusts God in the present, and rests in God in the present. The psalmist may be looking forward to better circumstances in the future, but he’s also determined to embrace what God is doing right now. He knows God is present and at work in the present.
Psalm 16 points to a two-part game plan for moving away from a “survive and advance” mentality so that we don’t miss what God is doing right now:
- Praise God for his presence in the present. As hard as our current situation may be, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with us – at our right hand, as the psalmist puts it. Praise God that he is present, he cares for us personally, and he is faithful. Praise God for his Word through which we can hear his voice, receive his counsel, and benefit from his instruction. Praise God that we are secure in him when we place our faith in his Son Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. In this challenging season, be intentional about praising and worshiping God day by day.
- Pay attention to God’s work in the present. While sports and other things may currently be “on hold,” God is still very much at work. In fact, this season gives us a unique opportunity to experience God’s work in us and through us – if we’re paying attention right now rather than only focusing on the future. When the psalmist talks about “setting the Lord always before me,” he’s saying, “I’m keeping my eyes fixed on God moment by moment. I’m keeping my ears open to what he’s saying.” The Lord is speaking, guiding, and teaching us in the present. Pay attention to him by spending time with him and looking for his work today.
Coach, you’re understandably eager for the future resumption of normal sports activities. That’s right and good. In the meantime, however, don’t miss the full experience of what God is doing right now. Focus on God’s presence in the present, praising him and paying attention to his activity. You will be grateful in the future if you make the most of the unique opportunity in the present to grow closer to the Lord.
For reflection: Take some time to praise God for who he is and what he’s doing in this current season. Ask him to help you keep your eyes fixed on him and your ears open to what he’s speaking to you.