It’s January in Australia and that means two things. Summer and Sport.
The two go hand in hand. Summer means so much more than just long hot days, BBQ’s, sunburns, mozzies, total fire bans and swimming at the beach. Summer means Cricket and Tennis. On every TV channel. Day and Night. Whether we like it or not!
Let me state, for the record, whilst I’m not a huge fan of watching the cricket or tennis, over the years I have developed an understanding (and enjoyment even) of both of these games. I’ve been known to enjoy hitting a tennis ball over the net or standing at the wicket, bat in hand, facing the fast bowler at the other end of the (backyard) cricket pitch! After all, it’s Summer, it’s Australia, and that’s just what we do!
Like sports in other countries, both cricket and tennis have taken to using an off-field or off-court referee to verify the decision of the on-field or on-court referees. Hidden away unseen in front of tv screens, these umpires replay the video footage of any play or shot that has just taken place and is in dispute, looking over it at from every angle in slow motion to confirm the ruling that has just taken place on the court or field. In cricket, the role of the off-field referee is called the “third umpire”.
One thing I love about cricket is it has a certain old-fashioned, British, gentlemanly quality to it. Cricket causes me to reminisce about the Summer I spent in the UK and the times spent watching county cricket matches. Now, whenever I hear that distinctive sound of leather against timber and hear the cry of “Howzat” (Aussie slang for “How is that?”) I’m taken back to another time and place. Oh but I digress! Anyway, rather than have the on-field umpire pick up a phone and call the “third umpire”, a signal was introduced whereby the field umpire would “draw” or mime a TV screen in the air as a request for the third umpire’s decision, and the result, if a fall of wicket was in question for example, would be relayed via large screens around the cricket grounds. That’s the quirkiness of cricket for you!
The role of the third umpire in the game of cricket is a controversial one that I don’t intend to discuss here, but as I was thinking about the whole third umpire concept, I thought about the how the role of God as “judge” or umpire is also controversial. Personally I like to think of God as being Fatherly figure – loving and kind. I don’t like to think of Him as a judge.
Yet He is.
The Bible says “It is the Lord Himself (God) who will examine and judge me…He will both bring to light the secret things that are hidden in darkness and disclose and expose the secret aims, motives and purposes of hearts. Then God will give to each person whatever praise is due.” (1 Corinthiams 4:4-5)
As I read this verse, I was reminded of another verse in the Bible about judging. 1 Samuel 16:7 says “The Lord sees not as man sees. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God is loving. God is kind. God is also a judge. But thankfully my loving and kind God doesn’t judge by appearances, He judges by character and by integrity. He judges by faith. He judges by the trust I place in Him. He judges by my heart that loves Him. And because He sees the inside (the view that others can’t see), He is the only one qualified to bring judgment and consequently, praise. In other words, it doesn’t matter what others say. It doesn’t matter whether the cry of “Howzat” goes up because unless God says it’s “out”, then it’s not out. Perhaps, from now on, when life beats me up (or when I beat myself up) instead of seeing God as a judge-like figure and thinking of this in negative terms, I should think of Him more like a third umpire. When I see the negative, God sees the positive. When I see things and think they are dead, God sees the new growth ready to burst forth. When I abandon dreams, God breathes new life into them. When I think I’m worthless and useless, God judges my heart and sees the ‘real’ me.
So, this Summer if you happen to see me stop and “draw” a TV screen in the air, you’ll know exactly what I’m doing! I’m asking the Third Umpire to help me see things more clearly. I’ll be asking Him to review the play and allow me to see things from a different angle and a different perspective. I’ll be asking Him to bring to light the secret things that are hidden and disclose the motives and purposes of my heart. And as I ask God to examine me and, yes, judge me, I pray He brings truth and clarity. And I pray that I remember God’s decision is final.