by Dale Reeves
I have a friend who passed away a few years ago who used to tell me how “fair weather” Cincinnati people were. He wasn’t talking about the craziness of the ups and downs of the weather here in the spring, but rather the bandwagon fans of the sports teams in our town—specifically, fans of the Reds and the Bengals. He was a die-hard fanatic of the Chicago Cubs, and he had lived through a lifetime of disappointing seasons before their World Series victory in 2016. That year ended their 108-year drought of not winning the Major League Baseball championship. Several times Jim and I attended a baseball game together at Great American Ball Park where we saw more fans in the stands wearing blue than red. That was always a proud moment for him, as he would look at me and say, “See, I told you. Cubbie fans are loyal through and through regardless of what kind of season we are having. Red fans are excited as long as they are winning, but when they start losing, people stop coming to the ballpark.”
I couldn’t really argue with him. I remember the great years of the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, and the wire-to-wire championship season the Reds enjoyed in 1990, when they stunned the baseball world by sweeping the heavily favored Oakland A’s in four games to claim the title. But the past few decades have been frustrating for many fans. And we can definitely say the same for Cincinnati Bengals fans. When I’m asked about an upcoming season I often say, “I think it will be business as usual.” Or perhaps, every now and then, I might reply, “This year I am cautiously optimistic.” But, to Jim’s point, I don’t pull out my Reds or Bengals attire and wear them in public as much if they are not winning.
Fair Weather Weather
Just over a week ago, last Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Cincinnati broke a 120-year-old April snow record. The amount of snow recorded at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport was 2.3 inches. We had about 3 inches in Mason. The previous record for this date was 1.5 inches in 1901, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington. Snow had been predicted, but most people were surprised to see the large amount of wet, heavy snow that fell overnight. Accompanying that snow were temperatures in the low 30s, but it felt like the 20s to me (and to my dog Daisy, when she had to trudge out into the snow again.)
I have to take some responsibility for this. The Sunday morning before last Wednesday I made a stage announcement in our church building that the MAN CHURCH event would be taking place at the firepit no matter what—unless we experienced a hurricane or a blizzard! After all, I said, “We are men!” I must say, it turned out to be a great night for a huge bonfire. The next morning, my friend and teaching pastor Brad Wilson said to me, “I’m actually glad it snowed. It was great to see the commitment of so many men in our church even though it was colder than what we thought it would be when we planned this date on the church calendar.”
If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone say, “Don’t like the weather here today? Don’t worry! It will change by tomorrow.” I’ve heard others joke and say, “This is a great place to be a weatherman (or woman), because you don’t have to get your weather predictions right most of the time.” Often, it seems that when a huge snowstorm is predicted, we get minimal snowfall, and school kids are disappointed. On the other hand, when we don’t expect as much snow, that’s when it seems that we get slammed with the white stuff.
Fair Weather Followers
Well, as Cincinnati weather would have it, by Friday of last week, we were in the 60s, and this past Wednesday—just a week after the record snowfall—we hit the low 80s. And, here’s the thought that dawned on me this week . . .
For many followers of God, it seems that our faith fluctuates up and down depending on the “weather conditions” of the day . . . what is happening in our personal life, our family, our church, our job, our country, our world. We so often can allow the negative voices in the media to cause us to spiral downward. And our faith and dependence on God does a Jekyll-and-Hyde act just like the temperature drop we recently experienced. One day we are on cloud nine, and the next day we mope around like Eeyore preaching doom and gloom.
This is nothing new to Jesus. He experienced this kind of fair-weather following in his ministry. In his story about the sower who sowed seed, Jesus spoke of those whose faith takes root quickly but then the thorns, cares, and pleasures of this life choke it out because there is no deep commitment to following him (see Luke 8:7, 14). After teaching the crowd who was following him about how he was the real bread from Heaven and that they should “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” John 6:66 says that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” These were not his twelve disciples, but the many followers in the crowd who loved it when he was healing their sick, and keeping their bellies full. But, when they couldn’t get behind this hard teaching of his, they checked out. Jesus asked his twelve disciples if they were going to desert him as well. In other words, “Are you guys fair-weather fans too?”
One of our grandsons recently had a bit of a temperature, so his mom had to take his temp every so often to make sure he was not getting too sick. Do you think God sits around watching his children and wondering if he’s going to have to give us a baby aspirin to bring down the temperature for us? How do you think he feels when he sees our faith waver, and he watches us bob up and down in our faith based on our current circumstances or frame of mind? He responds with patience and love like a loving parent does for a preschooler. But as he administers the aspirin, he also gives us a warning in the prescription. He wants us to be all in, not double-minded.
James, the Lord’s brother, tells us:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8, ESV).
To be “double-minded,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, is to be “wavering in mind; undecided, vacillating; marked by hypocrisy; insincere.” A double-minded person is torn between two worlds—the passing world of this age, and the kingdom of Christ, desiring to experience the full benefits of each. In another place in his letter, James says that to have an intimate friendship with the ways of the world is to have hostility toward God (see James 4:4).
The opposite of that is to be singularly focused, committed, leaning into God’s plan for our lives—regardless of the snow flurries, swirling wind, drizzling sleet, and falling raindrops around us. Jesus referred to that kind of commitment to God as being “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). The author of the book of Hebrews challenges us with these words: “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT).
The classic old hymn “He Leadeth Me” was birthed out of the struggles of the Civil War, and written in 1862. Writer Joseph H. Gilmore, an ordained minister, spoke of the background that led him to compose this hymn: “It was the darkest hour of the Civil War. It made me realize that God’s leadership is the one significant fact in human experience, that it makes no difference how we are led, or whither we are led, so long as we are sure God is leading us.”
“He leadeth me! He leadeth me!
By his own hand he leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by his hand he leadeth me.”
My prayer for you today is that you would not be a fair-weather fan, but a faithful follower.