In The Arena

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

Luke 24:13-21

These men walking to Emmaus had dared to hope. They had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, the one who was going to redeem Israel. Yet, their hopes here dashed. Jesus had been crucified.

What they couldn’t have imagined is that Jesus not only redeemed Israel but the whole world, and He did so not despite His death but through His death. They couldn’t have imagined that Jesus was resurrected, He was the Messiah, and He was the one they were talking to in that very moment.

In other words, God didn’t fulfilled their hopes because their hopes were too small. God did much more, so much more, just not in the way they had expected. And they were right to hope. At least they were brave enough to hope. Too often people don’t want to get their hopes up. They don’t want to be disappointed as if disappointment is the worst suffering in the world. It’s not. Hopelessness is.

We should get our hopes up. We need to practice the spiritual discipline of hoping even in the midst of the impossible. We need to stop guarding our disappointment as if it will mortally wound us if we get disappointed from time to time. Even if we don’t see our hopes come to pass, God might be doing something better or bigger than we could even hope or imagine.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

Ephesians 3:20

My friend just ran a long race to raise money for a good cause. He ran over 30 miles on Saturday to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (yes, 30 miles). Pretty amazing! But when he stopped running, he was a little disappointed because his goal was 41 miles that day. He did not reach his goal of that many miles, yet he did so much more.

Did I mention that he has MS himself? He inspired so many people with his run even though he felt that he fell short. He raised money and awareness but, more than that, he raised hopes!

Thirty miles with MS. Astounding! He reached for the stars and got the moon. He was willing to take the risk. He was willing to go after something big and even face disappointment. That kind of courage is inspiring. That kind of heart is contagious.

Don’t you want to be that kind of person, even if you fall short? Me too. It’s time to get our hopes up.

I left the following quote on my friend’s Facebook page. I couldn’t think of a better quote that captured the moment. It’s from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt and has become known as “The Man in the Arena.” My friend was the man in the arena. He dared greatly and will never be among those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship in a Republic

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