This month precedes another high holy season when we celebrate the victorious resurrection of our Lord and savior. I’m not referencing Lent, but rather the NCAA tournament when millions of fans try to predict with random accuracy which men’s college basketball team will advance and be crowned champion from a crowded field of contenders.
An incredible amount of risk is required to forecast which underdog will upset a top seed. One would have to be crazy to think a team like Duke can be upset in the first round by an unranked WhointheHellAreTheyAnyway University that was doing well just to be invited to the big dance. Yet, it happens (and it hurts).
Top seeded teams are targets for perennial giant-killers. Only devoted alums of the underdogs or fervent haters of the favored can complete their bracket with a straight face and make the right calls with aplomb.
Such it is with faith. Who invests all their personal stock in the redeemer of the world being born of a virgin and rising from the dead over 2,000 years ago? For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18). There is nothing rational about the gospel, but its power is all that keeps some among us going strong.
Objective observations fly in the face of historical speculation in the same way top-ranked teams defy those with little hope of advancing in the tournament to fight for a win. Even those claiming to believe waver in the face of adversity. … you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:6b).
The ante was increased for this year’s tournament as Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, offered a billion-dollar prize to anyone who completed a perfect bracket in advance. Upset after upset resulted in no perfect brackets remaining after only a couple rounds of play. Only a lunatic, computer, or Godself could have foretold the winners with perfect accuracy. However, perfectly sane contestants were making detailed plans for spending their expected windfall.
In the same manner, theological pre-commitments prevent many from getting this faith thing right. Either we become arrogant in our individual position and those of the institutions to which we belong or we sink into despair when things do not go our way.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair (Psalm 88:14-15).
God never promised every day would be Sunday. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Even believers are subject to the effects of the human condition. Yet, we have victory in Him. Evidence of it is not readily seen. However, the power of the Holy Spirit working within and around us confirms that we are not just mad.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
For by it the elders obtained a good report (Hebrews 11:1-2).
Faith is what separates with winners from the losers. Mercer believed they could beat Duke, but faith in themselves only got them to the next round where they were defeated.