Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Volley Match, a Day of Mourning and the Abandonment During a Battle

Last Saturday I went to watch the Brazilian women volley team play here in Macau against Netherlands. It was a very exciting match. Brazil won the first set, but Netherlands came back strong and got to win on the second set with very strong blocking. Brazil, then, got to win the third set, and it seemed that Netherlands were going to take the fourth one, again with their strong blocking, when Brazil team imposed itself and close the game in the fourth set. While I was watching the match I noticed both team’s coaches. While Netherlands’ coach remained seated and quiet during almost the whole game, only instructing his players during the breaks, the Brazilian coach screamed, directed, swore, got thrilled, and suffered together with his team, standing by the side of the volleyball court during the whole game. We could see the changes in the Netherlands’ team from um set to the other, but we could see clearly the changes in the Brazilian team during the development of every set. We received the tickets for free to go watch the games on Saturday and Sunday (on Friday we had a meeting at our place so we didn’t get go), and after watching Brazil playing against Netherlands I was expecting a great game for Sunday against China.

But on Sunday we learned that the game was cancelled because the government of China had decided to hold a National Day of Mourning on that Sunday in honor of those killed by the landslide and flooding in Zhouqu, in the Gansu Province, where more than 1239 were already confirmed dead, 505 were still missing and thousands were in shelters provided by the government. Because of that all the entertainment activities and events were cancelled. The government in Macau decided to follow China’s direction and cancelled all the events in Macau as well. National days of mourning like this are rare in China; it happened on April for the victims of the Yushu earthquake, and two years ago during three days for those killed by the earthquake that struck Sichuan. The government predicts that around 45000 people will have to be evacuated from their homes. The rain has been pouring down continually and is reaching even the province of Sichuan, the site of the massive earthquake of two years ago. Watching the tv we can see many images of soldiers half-buried in the mud, searching for survivors, boats rescuing people from their flooded houses, and digging machines. It’s sad to see the weeping of many survivors or those who lost relatives or the frustration when one more body is found from under the debris. All of this gives the feeling of incapacitation, limitation, pain, suffering, abandonment. Looking at them I started to wonder: What now? How are this people going to live their lives? What about all the hurts? Some of them were just left alone in the world. Others lost just everything they had. Where will they go from here? The circumstances and people may abandon and hurt us for several times, but how we are going to react to this is important.

Being forced to move back to Macau wasn’t in my plans, but circumstances in life forced me to this. It was hard. I felt hurt, even abandoned, but as time went by I started to see what God was doing. By taking time to meditate on the might warriors of David I came to know Eleazar and Shammah, who have experienced the reality of abandonment and rejection, but didn’t allow this to direct his life. Today I want to talk about Eleazar.

2 Samuel. 23:9,10

Eleazar was in a war. Whenever there is a war a soldier never goes to a battle by him/herself. There is an army that goes along. But what if the army run away and leaves you alone to fight against the enemy? It seems this is the case with Eleazar. Who is he? He is the son of Dodai . The name Dodai means “loving”, “caring”, that may express a character trait he may own. Eliezer, possibly, finds affirmation, love, encouragement from his dad. He learns that there are no limits or barriers for what you can get if you put effort and fight for it. He knows that even if he fails, when he comes back home he will be received by a family that loves and accepts him for who he is. From this he finds the assurance to challenge the Philistines.

Maybe this is the war when David fought against Goliath. If it is, this may explain the reason why Israel is so scared of the enemy. But not Eleazar. He is there, taunting the enemy, with no worries, when, suddenly, he looks back and notices that his whole army has just disappeared. His army ran away from the battle and left him alone in the battlefield. The whole enemy army is coming against him.

What would be the most rational thing to be done? Retreat as well, of course. But he has other ideas in his mind. He stands his ground and he fights the enemy all by himself and strike them down to the point of his hand grow tired and cling to his hand. Later the troops went back, not to help, but to strip the dead. Eleazar’s name means “God has helped”. No army, but God by his side.

What we learn here?
1- We need willingness to battle: We have to be pro-active.
Just like Brazil’s coach, we can’t wait for the time break to fix what is wrong. We have to be by the side of the volleyball court, giving the instructions that will perfect the moves during the running of the match and change the face of the game. We need to wish to be in the battlefield, and go to the battle instead of waiting for the battle to come to us. We have to understand that we are in a war and we will be influenced by it willingly or not.

2- We need to have a resolution of the spirit: Boldness.
We can’t run away from the circumstances that attack us. Just like the volleyball players we have to be prepared for what will come before us and answer it accordingly. Just like the soldiers that go to the debris searching for living and dead, not knowing what they are going to find, but hoping to find signs of life, victory and the feeling of a work well done, we can’t flee from the responsibility that confront us. We have to be bold to fight to the end.

3- Notwithstanding the weakness and weariness of the flesh: Weary but not quitting.
Yes, the battles that we are going to fight will drain our energy. It will drain our resources. And many times it will try to steal our hope. But we can’t allow weakness, limitations, the size of the task, etc., take the best over us. We have to persevere up to the end. Imagine the horror of the soldiers for every dead body they find; imagine the scene of desolation and destruction; think about the size of the task of searching for survivors throughout a whole city buried under mud; imagine to play everything that you can play and take the game to the fifth set (the Netherlands against Dominican Republic match went to the fifth set). We can’t stop. We have to GO ahead, otherwise the task won’t be concluded and we will reach only failure, defeat. No! We can’t give up.

4- Get hold of the Word of God.
So intense was the battle that the sword got to cling to Eleazer’s hand. The sword is a representation of the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) and we need to get it stuck to us. We need to breathe the Word. We need to live the Word. Just like the players practice and practice volleyball so that they can play better and better at the time of the match, just like they listen to their coach during the match to do the needed changes in their play, just like the soldiers need to practice and train for the day of battle or of the natural tragedy, in the same way we need to breath and live the Word of God up to the point that it may cling to us and our natural response may the truths of the Word.

5- We receive revelation and victory in first-hand; others come and get it second-hand (and mostly the revelation does not fit them).
Eleazar fought and won over the Philistines. The Israelites who fled from the battlefield only came back to take the spoils of a battle they didn’t fight. Today many people are like that. There are those who pray, study the Word, fast, research, spend time, hours, days, weeks, months to receive a revelation of God through His Word that fits to the realities and challenges they are facing. There are those that simply don’t do anything, and just take the revelations someone else received, and most of the time those revelations would not even fit to their lives. One thing is to support for Brazil, another one is to play the game. I can be proud of Brazil for their victory over China, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, but those who played the game know much better what took for them to get there. I can read about the tragedy in China, but those who are there, sinking in the mud, digging, etc., know better the joy and the adrenaline of finding survivors after hours of been under the debris.

6- God gives the victory.
In the end we read that the Lord brought about a great victory. Doesn’t matter how bold may be the tool Who fought the battle, the praise of victory, of the accomplishment, of the conquest, must be given to God. Eleazar fought the battle, but God was the One who brought about the victory. The girls of Brazil played, but it was the Confederação Brasileira de Voleibol (Brazilian Volleyball Confederation) who selected them to play, representing Brazil. The soldiers may find a survivor, but it was their government who trained them, selected them and sent them to represent their people and their nation. We, in the same way, are trained, chosen, called, sent to represent and serve our God. He is the One who gives the victory.

Oh, yeah, just to let you know: the Sunday match was transferred to Monday and the women volleyball team from Brazil played and won over China (3x0). We were there and it was a lot of fun!

1 comment:

Beto said...

Deep and true text. I'll sure get to use it in my History of Israel's next classes. Thank you and may the Lord keep on blessing you guys and your teen team!