Here is a key principle to keep someone interested in playing a video game: keep it challenging enough so that the person doesn’t get bored and quit, but also don’t make it so hard that the person gets discouraged and quits. When the LORD creates and sustains our individual lives—and all Humanity—he follows this same key principle of “sustainable perseverance”: keep things challenging enough so that people don’t get bored, and quit loving the LORD and others, but also don’t make things so hard that people get discouraged, and quit loving the LORD and others.
My son-in-law’s career includes creating and sustaining video games.
I remember him telling me a key principle to keep someone interested in playing the game: keep it challenging enough so that the person doesn’t get bored and quit, but also don’t make it so hard that the person gets discouraged and quits.
When the LORD creates and sustains our individual lives—and all Humanity—he follows this same key principle of “sustainable perseverance”: keep things challenging enough so that people don’t get bored, and quit loving the LORD and others, but also don’t make things so hard that people get discouraged, and quit loving the LORD and others.
Of course, one way a game does this is to have different levels of difficulty.
Similarly, God provides different “levels of difficulty” to different people at different times in their lives.
For example, the Apostle Peter died by being crucified upside down. The Apostle John died a peaceful death in his old age. (John 21:18-23; some traditions).
Unfortunately, if the difficulty level is too easy, people become lazy and arrogant.
Moses gave the Ancient Israelites a warning that still rings true in the 21st Century for those who claim to be following the Way of Jesus that embodies the ideals of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets:
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God . . .. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God . . ..” (Deuteronomy 8: 10-11).
“Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God. . ..” (Deuteronomy 8:10-14 (emphasis added)).
And, if you forget the LORD your God, you “will be uprooted from the land” of Israel and sent into exile. (Deuteronomy 28:63-64).
[Therefore, never say to yourself,] ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth . . ..” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
Similarly, the LORD gave the Ancient Church in Laodicea a warning that still rings true in the 21st Century for those who claim to be following the Way of Jesus that embodies the ideals of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold. . . . So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16).
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17).
Therefore, what must we do?
The LORD says, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Revelation 3:18).
Such are the dangers if “the game” is too easy.
What are the dangers if “the game” is too hard?
Jesus warned, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12).
Therefore, what must we do?
Jesus promised us: “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13).
How do we stand firm?
By trusting in the faithfulness of the LORD. (Psalm 136; Psalm 23).
As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people who were exiles in Babylon:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As the Prophet Jeremiah lamented after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple:
“[M]y soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.’
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.”
(Lamentations 3:20-26 (emphasis added)).
The following beloved passage in Isaiah about the return of people from their exile in Babylon celebrates how wonderful it will be for those who wait for the salvation of the LORD—for those who hope in the LORD:
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding none can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
(Isaiah 40:28-31 (emphasis added)).
After people returned from their exile in Babylon, Ezra and Nehemiah restored the Temple, re-built the wall around Jerusalem, and taught Israel the Teachings that embody the ideals—the Way—of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets.
To celebrate, Ezra and Nehemiah gathered the Jews (both men and women) to be instructed in the Law.
The people wept. They were overcome by grief.
Because, when they listened to the words of the Law, they realized how far each of them—and all Israel—had gone astray and fallen short of the glory of God.
Because they recalled the many disasters, disappointments, and sorrows that had afflicted each of them—and all Israel—for centuries.
Nevertheless, Ezra and Nehemiah comforted the people.
Nehemiah said, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength”. (Nehemiah 8:10 (emphasis added)).
Similarly, if you grow discouraged and your love grows cold, listen to the words of the Law, of the Prophets, and of Jesus who embodies the ideals—the Way—of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets. (Matthew 5:17).
Weep when you realize how far you and Humanity have gone astray and fallen short of the glory of God. (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23).
Weep when you recall the many disasters, disappointments, and sorrows that have afflicted you and Humanity for far too long.
Then, remember. And do not grieve.
Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).
What should you remember?
Remember that the joy of the LORD is our strength.
Remember that we can forget what lies behind and press on toward what lies ahead—the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14).
How can we find the strength to press on towards what lies ahead?
Remember that neither trouble nor hardship nor persecution nor famine nor nakedness nor danger nor sword can separate us from the love of Jesus. (Romans 8:35).
Remember that “in all . . . things we are more than conquerors through [Jesus] who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).
Remember “that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).
Remember that by following this Way of Jesus we will find the Joy that gives us strength.
Remember that by hoping in the LORD we will find the Joy of the LORD that is our strength.
For additional thoughts arising from games, please read my blogs “Chess Lessons: Playing for a Draw”, “Poker Lessons: Playing the Cards? Or Playing the People?”, and “Game Lessons: Use It or Lose It”.
For additional thoughts about hoping in the LORD, please read “Part Two: Healing God’s Promised Land” of my book Healing the Promised Land, at pages 195-366; and my entire book Hoping in the LORD (based on the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
The quote from Lamentations is taken from “an acrostic poem; the verses of each stanza begin with the successive verses of the Hebrew alphabet, and the verses within each stanza begin with the same letter.” (NIV note to chapters 3 and 4 of Lamentations).