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“Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God.”

(1 Timothy 1:18-20 NLT)

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We know nothing about the two men Paul mentions in the above passage of scripture, Hymenaeus and Alexander. What we do know, however, is they had made shipwreck of their faith by deliberately rejecting the counsel of God written on their hearts – their conscience, and it cost them dearly.

Mitch Teemley observed how this works out watching the Bengals/Steelers game, this past Saturday evening; Mitch writes, “It was painful to see the BENGALS snatch defeat from the jaws of victory last night–but a great illustration of the destructive power of anger. Lack of self-control lost the game. Again.”

I too watched the game and shook my head in disbelief as the final  seconds ticked away. They had it, in the bag, break out the bubbly, we are on to the next playoff round, one step closer to Super Bowl 50, or so the Bengals must have thought. But a fumble by Jeremy Hill put the ball back in the Steelers hands. Moments later, Vontaze Burfict laid a malicious, head-hunting hit on Antonio Brown bringing out the yellow flag giving the Steelers a first and ten. On the very next play, Adam (Pacman) Jones committed a second personal foul arguing with the officials. The combined penalties moved the ball from the 47 to the 17-yard line, putting the Steelers in the Bengals red zone with a fresh set of downs; a Pittsburg victory was now but a chip shot away for Chris Boswell who nailed the winning field goal sending Pittsburg to Mile High Stadium in Denver for Round 2, and the Bengals home to watch the game on TV, if they can bear too.

Given the fact that only 1.6% of the college pool will make it to the NFL, these guys are the elite, the best of the best, professional football players often paid millions to know the game and skillfully execute their positions on the field. They know the rules, and the rules are equally important as knowing the playbook, so that when a foul is committed, the guilty can fuss with the referee, kick, curse and scream, play whatever card they think might trump the call, but the rules are the rules and when the rules are broken a price will be paid. For the Bengals, it cost them the game and that cost them a lot of loot and a chance to be crowned Super Bowl Champions this year.

As Believers, followers of Jesus, what happened at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio happens all to often in life. We make the mistake of fumbling the ball turning it over to the opposing team. It isn’t a part of the game plan, but a turnover nonetheless. Fearing the game we are winning to be in jeopardy, we go into panic mode; we become spiritual amnesiacs forgetting the many like situations God has brought us through. Almost instinctively we jump back into the old man mode (see Colossians 3:9-10), steer away from playing the game as we know we should, committing costly errors (sometimes maliciously) and the inevitable happens – we lose.

Whether angry, frustrated or fearful, there is a right way to live and conduct ourselves as believers and I am convinced genuine believers know it. Hebrews 10:16 tells us, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds” (ESV).

One thing we glean from that verse is this: Believers do know better. The day you placed faith in Jesus, you were given the Holy Spirit who took up residence in your heart assuring ultimate victory no matter how dismal a moment may be. Along with him came the entire counsel of God, indelibly written in your mind, and a divine helper/guide enabling you to navigate life successfully, living and doing things God’s way, the right way. When we mess up, therefore, we choose too, each time running the risk of winding up shipwrecked as did Hymenaeus and Alexander – a tragic end to what might have been.

There are no promises in scripture of a carefree, burdenless lifestyle as followers of Jesus; no guarantees of living without mountains to climb, valleys to cross, troubles to confront and trials to endure. Sorry, but the forecast does include days of severe weather, difficulty and hardships, but we know how we are to respond – our Helper (The Holy Spirit) is with us in the storm, ever present, reminding us of the rules of the game (so to speak), the way we will play, though, is up to us.

It is most painful to see a Believer snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and it doesn’t have to be that way, it’s not a part of the game plan. The apostle Paul reminds us,“. . .in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 ESV).

Thanks Mitch for the inspiration.

I encourage you to read and follow Mitch Teemley’s blog at mitchteemley.com