Last week my church threw a big party for families and filled the building with inflatable bounce houses and cotton candy. Someone thought it would be a good idea to put me in charge of the gladiator arena.
Have you seen one of these things? It’s basically a giant air mattress with a couple of rubber platforms a few feet off the ground. The gladiators strap on helmets, climb up on their perch and then beat the tar out of each other with padded sticks until somebody falls off.
Let me tell you, this is good, clean American fun. There’s nothing that advances a childhood friendship like being locked in mortal combat. But the best part is that it’s fun for the whole family. I saw brothers face off against sisters. Dads against sons. Even moms got into the action.
I think these gladiator arenas would also go a long way to saving some marriages. I watched one couple jump in the ring last weekend, and it only took about three seconds before the wife took her husband down. They walked away looking very happily married. At least she did. The guy just looked kind of dazed.
My absolute favorite gladiators, however, were the preschoolers. Two of them in particular were so tiny they could barely climb up on their platforms and hold their jousting poles. Their enormous helmets kept slipping down over their eyes making it impossible to see their opponent. They couldn’t even reach each other with their weapons. All they could do was swing around wildly and try not to fall down.
Eventually one of the kids lost his footing and took a dive. I pointed to the other kid and yelled, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a champion!”
He pushed his helmet back out of his eyes, blinked a couple of times and said, “I don’t get it. How did I win?”
I said, “Buddy, you just kept standing. That’s all you had to do.”
As soon I said that, I thought about how true that is for all of our lives. Some days the world just seems to beat us down with trouble, suffering and discouragement. On those days it’s all we can do just to stay on our feet.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it tells it like it is. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” In other words, some days are going to stink. Some years, some decades, are going to stink. But however long these circumstances last, the Bible encourages us to lean into God’s power to stay on our feet until the end.
James 5:8 says, “Be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.” Help is on the way. Better days are ahead.
I wonder if at the end of my life when I finally see God face-to-face, if I’ll look a little like that preschooler in the gladiator arena. I wonder if God will tell me, “You did it buddy. You won the fight.” If so, I’ll probably blink a few times and say, “I don’t get it. How did I win?” And maybe God will say, “With my help, you just kept standing. That’s all you had to do.”
Whatever is beating you down this week, remember that there’s a God who’s big enough and who loves you enough to keep you on your feet.