Buckeyes, anacondas, New Year’s resolutions

I could not believe it: At the very moment the ball was dropping in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the football was dropping unsuccessfully in the end zone as Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles failed in his attempt to win the game against Georgia.

Now, please do not think I am criticizing Mr. Ruggles. No, I rather admire the fellow. He was trying something he had never done before. He had not kicked a field goal that long before. And just like a golfer who is trying to hit the green with a club he has never hit that far before (I know – I’ve been there), in trying to kick it hard, he pulled it left of the goalposts. Oh, how many times have I been standing on the tee trying to hit the green a little farther away than I had originally thought, and swung so hard at the ball that I ended up pulling it left of the green. No, this fellow is a hero of mine for even trying.

In the days since that fateful evening, my friends and neighbors have been very consoling. Many of them are Georgia fans, including my own sister. But others, even my neighbors who also come from Ohio, are yelling at me to “fire the coach” and other such epithets not suitable for print.

But I am in the business of encouragement – encouragement to change and make improvements during the coming year, encouragement to do whatever is necessary for our lives to glorify God daily and to enjoy Him forever. That is why I do want to shift the focus and ask you the reader to think through the coming year. What is going to happen to you in 2023? Do you know? Are you ready for it? How will you handle it when it occurs?

According to pastor and author John Ortberg, a fictitious manual for Peace Corps volunteers headed for South America offers advice on how to handle a chance encounter with an anaconda (a large type of boa constrictor). This is the list of instructions under the heading “What to Do If Attacked by an Anaconda”:

1. If you’re attacked by an anaconda, do not run; the snake is faster than you are.

2. Lie flat on the ground.

3. Put your arms tight at your sides and your legs tight against one another.

4. The snake will begin to climb over your body.

5. Do not panic.

6. The snake will begin to swallow you from the feet end.

7. Step 6 will take a long time.

8. After a while, slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down, take your knife, and very gently slide it into the snake’s mouth. Then suddenly sever the snake’s head.

9. Be sure your knife is sharp.

10. Be sure you have your knife.

John Ortberg quotes these humorous instructions and then makes a serious point: “You never really know what curves life will throw at you, what’s lurking around the corner. But when you are called, and you will be called, you need to know what to do. If you wait until a crisis hits, because it will hit, you have waited too long. You need to be prepared first.”

I am not big into New Year’s resolutions. In fact, if the statistics are any indication, most people my age are not into making such things. I guess we realize that of the very small percentage of the people who do make resolutions, there is an even smaller percentage who carry them out, so why bother?

Because of who I am in Christ, I have a unique outlook on the future. I am looking at the coming year with excitement and anticipation for the great things God is going to do. The fact that I have a relationship with Christ makes such an outlook not only a positive dream but something that I can actually accomplish. Why? Because I gain my vision from Him, because I gain my strength from Him, because I gain my position from Him. The circumstances which I encounter may attempt to discourage, dissuade and defeat me, but by keeping my eyes on Christ, I can overcome the devastation which circumstances attempt to bring.

No doubt, Noah Ruggles will remember what happened last Saturday night for a very long time. But hopefully, he will be able to put it all in proper perspective and realize that he can and should take quite literally the encouraging autobiographical outlook of the Apostle Paul when he said, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).

As for me, for the coming year, as in previous years, I have three major things that I want to accomplish:

1). Rejoice in who I am in Christ. Because of Jesus Christ, I am assured of an eternity with God in heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:20-21).

2). Reconnect with God in Christ daily. Through His Word (the Bible) and through prayer, I want to stay in communication with God daily. I also want to rest in His promises and rely on His strength, since He is so much more powerful than I am (Hebrews 4:12, 16; Romans 8:38-39).

3). Recommit to serving Him since He has called me to be salt and light in a world that desperately needs salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16; Colossians 3:23).

In all of this, my heart overflows with thankfulness — especially to God, but not just to God — to my wife and my children, to my church family, to my friends, and to all of you who take the time to read these nuggets of truth. I truly thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).

May God grant you a wonderful and peaceful and positive new year!

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at cdtabor3@gmail.com.