As some of my friends are aware, I am a chess enthusiast, often up for the odd friendly or playing chess online. For the first time in many years, I have these past few months being playing a number of competitive games for my local chess club that take more than two hours, are played with a clock and where gradings and position in the local league are at stake. It has been a pleasure. Having drawn most of my games, against half decent players, it is an achievement!
I recall in my early blogging career talking about my love of chess and reflecting that several aspects of the game are a metaphor on life itself. One is the need to try to gain an edge, preparing for the most important phase of the game – the end. Sometimes one sacrifices material to do so. There is a need to avoid getting waylaid by making speculative moves that doesn’t serve the ultimate purpose, which is to win, avoiding making foolish moves (an all too often occurrence in my case) and patiently developing one’s position so pieces become well coordinated and well placed. All these principles come into play in order to secure that all important advantage, however small, because all what matters is winning the opponent’s king.
When counseling people involved in a whole variety of activities within the wider community, I often find I am having conversations along the lines that the path toward reaching one’s goals can be a tortuous one, where I end up reminding them that it is all about winning the end game, which while seemingly some way off is something they need to start preparing for now. I often think of my own dual role as a gospel preacher and a community activist, and while things are often not what I would prefer them to be right now, I need to work toward the time when things will be as they should be. On the community side, there are all sorts of issues and programs that I support that might gain the favour of either liberals or conservatives, and sometimes neither or both. It can be a lonely path and one where conflict is the norm and it is easy to become discouraged, but I do what I do because I want to be in a good position to win the end game. The same goes for my gospel preaching – actually very little of it is in your face Bible thumping but rather espousing and trying to live by what I believe my religion teaches. Both community and gospel work can be a struggle but also it is worth hanging in until what matters – the end game is won.
One (of many articles) that got me thinking on the matter was something from the US with the intriguing title “How Urban Christians Failed President Obama”, where the author who (unlike some of my more conservative friends) is a big fan of the President because of his stand on several social justice issues, yet also takes him to task for decisions made that discriminate against Christians, arguing that Christians should support many of those measures brought forward by the President but to oppose him when he imposes measures that violate their conscience (one example cited was his transgender bathroom directive, and one where further developments either side of the Pond are to be expected – ed). On a different tack, I was mindful of certain writings from Christians of a more conservative ilk that argue the direction being taken by the European Union is playing into the hands of the yet to be revealed AntiChrist and that the overtures of the present Pope, in trying to accommodate Islam, is a precursor to the anything and everything goes one world religion that will align itself to the AntiChrist.
Concerning those remarks in the previous paragraph, it was not my intention to be melodramatic or even to express an opinion, either to agree or disagree, with the views I have presented. However, in line with my philosophy of life, which is to prepare in order to win the end game, I thought it would help some if I state where I stand, and here I must warn I will be getting a bit theological. One of the great expectations of the Church (or at least should be) is the personal return to this earth of the Lord Jesus Christ. While the coming of the Messiah in triumph and glory, as far as Christians are concerned, is for the second time (the first time he ended up being killed on a cross, followed by rising from the dead and ascending to heaven), for the Jews it is but the first time. All of this is prophesized in the Bible (Old and New Testaments). What happens between now and then is arguably a matter of conjecture where we see varying understandings among Christians that give the matter thought.
One of the books of the Bible that gives rise to probably most speculation is that of Revelation in the New Testament, followed by Daniel in the Old Testament. Because of the complex imagery, it is nigh impossible to relate this to current events or personalities, although some have tried (and often being proved wrong when events finally do unfold), and there are many widely differing interpretations. My understanding is there will be times of trouble (although some might say it has ever been thus) but arising from this there will be a new world order (already being spoken of and often looked forward to) but this will be headed up by the AntiChrist (who will be opposed to the true Christ), who among other things will control the world economy (ref “666” – the mark of the beast needed to buy and sell). He will be in collusion with a false system embracing all the world’s main religions. There will be conflict between those on God’s side (the minority) and those who aren’t (the majority), many of which will follow the AntiChrist, and there will be great tribulation for all and where God’s people will be attacked. I cannot be more specific, and will not be drawn into further speculation, other than encourage people to follow the true Christ, who will surely soon return victoriously and call Checkmate!
Going back to my chess playing analogy, irrespective of where we think we are when it comes to the various phases of the game, we need to focus on preparing for the end game and winning it. It will require dedication and determination, a focus on doing what is true and right, a sense of perspective given there will be both triumphs and set backs, a mix of realism and optimism knowing our limits yet seeing the possibilities, along with much patient endurance, amidst suffering (something all too rampant as we look around us) and a need for humility for we don’t have all the answers and a blurred picture at best, but the reward will be great and the effort and cost that comes from doing what needs doing will be worth it in the end.