It’s do or die this week for the Columbus Blue Jackets as they face the Detroit Red Wings on home ice in the first round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. I must admit that I’m a bit worried about my team as they face off against the defending Stanley Cup champions. They’ve already lost the first three games in the series, and the way Detroit has been playing, they could easily sweep the series.
Watching the Blue Jackets (in their first playoff series ever) take on the Red Wings (a perennial playoff contender and 10 time Stanley Cup champion) reminds me of the biblical showdown between David and Goliath (recorded in 1 Samuel 17).
Goliath was the feared Philistine champion that taunted the entire Israelite army as he challenged them to send out a warrior to face him in one-on-one combat. The writer of 1 Samuel recounts that the entire Israelite army was paralyzed in fear and not a brave soul was found to challenge Goliath to his duel. Then came David, the young shepherd boy sent to the Israelite camp by his father, Jesse, to bring a care package to his older brothers who were serving in the army. He heard Goliath’s challenge and was bewildered that everyone was too afraid to face the giant. So, what did David do? He announced that he was willing to face Goliath.
Frankly speaking, David was given as good a chance in beating Goliath as the Columbus Blue Jackets were given in even making it into the playoffs this year. Writers for The Hockey News magazine wrote off any chance of this upstart team even making the playoffs. Rick Nash, Columbus’ star player, also enjoyed poking a little fun at his team’s losing reputation when he filmed a commercial for the NHL 2K9 video game showing him day dreaming about hoisting the Stanley Cup in victory. Watch the YouTube video. The Blue Jackets’ chances of making it into the playoffs were considered slim to none. So were David’s when he went off to face Goliath.
While I admit I’d love to watch the Blue Jackets topple the Red Wings and make it all the way to the finals, I, with most Columbus fans I’ve run into, note that the real miracle is that our team made it into the playoffs so that we could face the giant head on. That was the real miracle on that day David faced Goliath. No one had the courage to face the giant except David who proclaimed, “The Lord who delivered me…[in the past] will deliver me…” (vs. 37).
You see, the rest of the army was paralyzed with the same fears that keeps us from confronting giants that stand in our way today. First there’s the fear of failure. We all hate to fail. I know I do. Then there’s the fear of embarrassment. How bad will I get jeered by my friends and neighbors if I should fail? So, what do we do? Most of the time we play it safe, hide behind the pack, and never challenge the giants that stand in our way. I don’t know how many good ideas get squashed or how many bullies get their way in our community, in our churches, in our nation because people are afraid to step out of the crowd, let their voice be heard, and take a chance on toppling giants.
Yet, David could not stay on the sidelines. He faced the giant and proclaimed, “Today…the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” (vs. 46). Win or lose it didn’t matter. David showed his neighbors that a living faith faced giants head on. Do or die, the Blue Jackets will take the ice and and confound the skeptics. What about you?
Sometimes it takes a lot longer to sip the sweet taste of victory than what you’d think. Some teams over the years seem almost predestined to have winning records: Detroit Red Wings, New England Patriots, New York Yankees, etc. Then there are teams in which it seems they’ll never win enough games to reach a playoff berth let alone a championship.
My Columbus Blue Jackets have been such a team ever since they entered the NHL as an expansion team in 2000. Sure, the Blue Jackets are fun to watch, but even in their (near) winning seasons, fans almost began to expect that by late January or February the team would choke and miss the playoff race yet again.
Yet here we are at the end of March and Rick Nash, Steve Mason and company are still clinging to 6th place in the NHL Western Conference. This year just might be the year that the Jackets finally get in the playoffs and who knows, a Stanley Cup run could be in their future.
What’s different this year? Sure the team made a few trades in the off season that have brought in some extra talent, but a team led by a rookie goaltender? You’ve got to be kidding! The pundits didn’t give the Blue Jackets a fighting chance at the beinning of the season. The team may not have a lot of outstanding talent but they are willing to work their tails off scraping out a win at a time. Truth be told, the real difference is that the team led by Coach Hitchcock believes that they can win! Belief makes all of the difference!
The Blue Jackets resemble the Israelite army recorded in Exodus 17. Joshua was leading the Israelites against the Amalekites while Moses stood on the top of a hill lifting them up to the Lord. “As long as Moses held up his hands , the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired…Aaron and Hur held his hands up -one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset” (Exodus 17:11-12). Joshua and the Israelite army needed Moses to lift them up to succeed. Moses also need Aaron and Hur to encourage him when he grew tired. They stood in the gap for each other until victory was at hand.
The same could be said for the Blue Jackets this season. Coach Hitchcock and the team have held each other up when they needed it most, especially when an injury knocked all-star veteran Pascal LeClaire out from goaltending and the 20 year old rookie Steve Mason had to come in, fill BIG shoes, and finish the season. Winning hasn’t been easy, but they believed that if they held each other up they could win.
That’s an important life lesson that you and I need to learn. Life is hard. You can’t do it by yourself. That’s why we rely on God to see us through. But just as importantly that is why it’s important to be surrounded by a Living Faith Christian Community. When you get tired or discourged, you have the promise that other brothers and sisters in faith will stand in the gap for you and hold you up in prayer and love until you make it through to victory.
Christians lifting up Christians no matter what…in Jesus’ name. That’s what living faith outside of the box is all about.
This might finally be the Blue Jackets’ winning year! Could it be yours? We’d like to lift you up to help you find out.