Along with the general controversies about a cheating champion, another major controversy has arisen out of the Astro’s scandal. Players and fans across the board have been outraged over the “apology” statements from some of the Astro’s biggest names. Many feel that the statements made were insincere. However the statements from Dave Hudgens, who was the 2017 Astro’s hitting coach, are where I want to begin today. “Well, I should’ve gone into A.J.’s office and said something, like any of us should’ve done. But we didn’t. And I really can’t even think of what I was thinking back then, to be honest with you.” This is an important statement for us within Sports Ministry to understand. The temptation to cheat can and will happen to everyone. The Prophet Jeremiah says it this way: “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” - Jeremiah 17:9 We don’t know where it will show up, how it will show up, or what it will look like, but the temptation to cheat will come and it will be enticing. So today, let's look at our own deceitful hearts, and be honest with ourselves and this issue of cheating. The Prophet Jeremiah knows a thing or two about being cheated. His entire ministry was one persecution or depressing object lesson for the people after another. He had the responsibility of letting Judah know that the God’s Judgement was finally coming, and they responded by harassment, imprisonment, sentenced to die, had to watch his prophesy come true, and yes he was cheated by the false prophets in the land as well. Here in chapter 17, Jeremiah calls Judahout for their idolatry. He curses the wealth of the land, and announces the Word of the Lord that faith in mankind is foolish, because mankind’s “heart is more deceitful that anything else.” Then Jeremiah has a realization as he delivers the rest of God’s message. “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve. He who makes a fortune unjustly is like a partridge that hatches eggs it didn’t lay. In the middle of his days his riches will abandon him, so in the end he will be a fool. A throne of glory on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. Lord, the hope of Israel, all who abandon You will be put to shame. All who turn away from Me will be written in the dirt, for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water.” Jeremiah 17:9-13 The realization Jeremiah comes to, is that he is just as bad as the people he is calling out. This is why the following section we see Jeremiah cry out to God, on his own behalf. “Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise.” - Jeremiah 17:14 There are three thoughts I want to leave you with this week.
1. It’s going to happen to you We have to recognize that everyone is going to be tempted to cheat at one point or another.We already saw in Matthew 4, that Jesus himself was faced with it, and so we better be expecting to see it in our lives as well. And as we see in Jeremiah 17:9 that “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” Deceit comes easily and naturally, and so we actually have to work at being honest. This can only happen when we recognize it.
2. Remember that the outcome is never as good as it seems.
All you have to do is look at where we are right now in April 2020. All over the world people are in lockdown over a virus so small that we cannot see it. Why are we dealing with this virus, because we thought that we could cheat the system back in the garden.
“I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve. He who makes a fortune unjustly is like a partridge that hatches eggs it didn’t lay. In the middle of his days his riches will abandon him, so in the end he will be a fool.” - Jeremiah 17:10-11
3. There is a way out of the Temptation
Jesus shows us very plainly how to respond to the temptation to cheat, all throughout Matthew 4. Jesus responds to Satan all three times with God’s word and God’s authority, something that we see Eve not do in Genesis 3. It is important for us to know and rely on God’s power when faced with the easier option.
“Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise. Hear how they keep challenging me, “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come!” But I have not run away from being Your shepherd, and I have not longed for the fatal day. You know my words were spoken in Your presence. Don’t become a terror to me. You are my refuge in the day of disaster. Let my persecutors be put to shame, but don’t let me be put to shame.” - Jeremiah 17:14-18
When we are in ministry, we are often looked at as being perfect people. Perfect people that never sin, and never have to deal with the temptations that “the common folk” have to face. Unfortunately, from time to time, we buy into that lie, and when we do, we fall back into the same trap that we see from the nation of Judah in Jeremiah 17 and that we saw from Coach Hudgens in 2017. We have to be honest with ourselves, “My heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—I cannot understand it. Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise.” Once we understand this, we can effectively move on to handling others that do it as well.