Go for the Gold part 3
Curling: Some Things You Don't Understand
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 19, 2006


It just wasn’t right. Peter had done a lot of weird and wonderful things over the past three years, but he wasn’t going to let Jesus wash his feet. That was a servant’s job. And besides, Peter had feet like a hobbit’s, and while Jesus had certainly touched the fisherman’s heart, Peter didn’t want him touching his feet.

You can read all about it in John chapter 13. We’re told there that Jesus knew that His time was growing short. In fact, that very night He would be arrested and taken away and subsequently executed. And so He does something very symbolic: He begins to wash the feet of His disciples, showing them what it means to really be a servant. But when He came to Peter, Peter protested. There was no way he was going to let Jesus stoop to the level of a servant and wash his feet. Peter was a disciple, Jesus was his master, and it just wasn’t going to happen. But as Peter protested, Jesus looked at him and said…

John 13:7 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.”

“You don’t understand now.” Story of my life. There are so many things I just don’t understand right now…

  • Calculus

  • Jar Jar Binks

  • Bungie Jumping – what’s the appeal?

  • How do they get the caramel in the Caramilk bar?

  • How can something be some mighty awful good?

  • How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

  • How did Dell ever get a reputation for good customer service?

So many things I don’t understand. Even some I don’t want to understand. Where does belly button lint come from? Don’t really want to know that.

And since we’re smack dab in the middle of the Winter Olympics, I thought I’d talk about something else I don’t understand… Curling. Now, let me back up. It seems every time I watch the Olympics, a new sport catches my attention. This year, it’s snowboarding. Back in 1988, it was figure skating. In ‘98, it was Women’s Hockey. And in 2002, it was Curling. So I’ve been watching Curling now for four years, and I still don’t understand it. I enjoy it, but I don’t get it.

I’ve even gone online to see if I could learn more about it. And I have learned some. I’ve discovered that Curling was probably developed in Scotland around 1510. And I learned that it was first played as a demonstration sport in the winter Olympics in Innsburg in 1964, and then again in Calgary in 1988. And it became an official sport in the Winter Olympics in 1998, when Canada won a gold in the women’s and a silver in the men’s. I’ve read the rules, and they seem fairly straight forward. So far so good. But even the experts don’t understand everything. For example, they can’t agree on why the stones curl the way they do. According to The Curling School and Curl Tech…

“There are several explanations of why rocks curl. Most of them are very technical and hard to follow… Some people may disagree with the exact details of why rocks curl.”
~ http://www.curlingschool.com/manual/sweeping.html

In fact, about a year and a half ago, two physicists from the University of Northern British Columbia published their own theory trying to answer that centuries-old mystery and it received a lot of attention, but even it is controversial and falls apart at some point.

So if the experts don’t understand everything, then there’s not a whole lot of hope for you and me.

Let me show you… this is the summary of one of the games this past Friday. I found it on TSN.ca…

Kleibrink’s foursome scored two in the second for a quick lead before coming away with steals in the third and fourth for the eventual margin of victory.
Great Britain appeared poised for a big end in the fifth but Martin’s draw for three ran heavy and she had to settle for two to cut the lead to 4-2.
In the seventh, Kleibrink added a single with a takeout to go up 5-2 and then forced Martin to draw for a single in the eight, giving up the hammer to Canada. In the ninth, Kleibrink used last rock advantage to score four and seal the victory.

There, did that make a whole lot of sense to you? And it didn’t even mention the hog line or the hack or the house or a biter or a pick or the pebble or draw weight or in-turn or bonspiel. Yesterday, I was watching and I even heard the commentator say, “We’ve seen him hog a rock.” What does that mean? Now, some of you may have followed most of that. For others of you, you’re completely confused. As confused as Jay Leno when he asked…

“Did you see the curling today? Pretty exciting! The gold medal ended up going to a Brazilian cleaning team.”
~ Jay Leno

However, never one to give up, I’ve since learned that curling wasn’t invented in Scotland… it was invented in the Holy Land thousands of years ago. Really, there are references to it in the Bible. I’ll even show you the verses. But before I do that, there may be some of you here that are completely unfamiliar with Curling. So for you, here’s a brief overview of the rules:

Each team is made up of four players: the lead, the second, the third and the skip. The skip is the captain of the team and calls the shots while mapping out strategy. The four players take turns throwing two stones each down the ice, alternating with the other team. The goal of each stone is to land it in the target area of three concentric rings known as “the house;” to take out opposing stones; or to set up “guards” to either protect their own stones or to prevent the opposition from penetrating the rings. And if at the end of that particular round your team has a stone closest to the center of the circles, called the button, then you get a point. If you have two stones that are closer than the other team’s, you get two points, and so on.

Got all that? Good. Now, I said Curling was mentioned in the Bible… First, we have instructions for the lead found in John 8:7 where it says…

John 8:7 (NIV)
…let him be the first to throw a stone…

Clearly a reference to Curling. And then, if the lead is able to land the stones in the house, there’s instruction for the second…

Ezekiel 38:7 (NKJV)
…be a guard for them.

And then in Isaiah we find this obvious curling statement…

Isaiah 14:23 (NKJV)
I will sweep it with the broom of destruction…

And then the Bible describes the shots made by the third…

Nahum 1:6 (NKJV)
And the rocks are thrown down by Him.

And then the Bible records the remarks made by the Skip…

Psalm 78:20 (NKJV)
Behold, He struck the rock…

Job 14:8 (ESV)
“…and the rock is removed from its place…”

Those are a couple of things the Skip might say. But the Bible only makes one comment about the activity of the Skip…

Matthew 20:6 (NASB)
“Why have you been standing here idle all day long?”

So there you have it… Curling as explained in the Bible. So now maybe you understand curling a bit better. Or maybe not. Some things you just don’t understand right now.

That may be true for you with Curling. And it may be true for you in other areas, too. In fact, I’m sure it’s true for you in some other areas. There are things you don’t understand right now. There are things that are happening in the world, there are things that happen to you every day, there are occupations and professions and all kinds of things that you and I simply don’t understand right now.

And that would extend to questions we might have about our faith. We may have partial answers, but maybe not full answers. How do you explain the Trinity… One God who exists as Three Persons? What happened between the time Jesus died and rose again? If Judas was a necessary part of God’s plan, then was he really guilty of anything? Was it a fish or a whale or a sea monster that swallowed Jonah?

Truth is, there are lots of things that you don’t understand and there are lots of things I don’t understand. There are a lot of questions you could ask me that I’d have to answer with, “I don’t know.” Maybe I can find the answers, maybe I can’t.

And to be honest with you, the people who scare me are the ones who think they’ve got it all figured out. If someone tells you they understand the entire Bible and there is nothing in it they struggle with, watch out for them. They’re either delusional or they’re liars. And if they lie about that, they will lie about anything.

Now, going back to what Jesus told Peter…

John 13:7 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.”

In some cases, “Someday” may be next week, or next year, or several years from now. Maybe you just need to think about it longer, read about it further, pray about it more. Or maybe you need to ask someone else. They may have a quick, simple answer from a perspective you’ve never considered before. Or maybe you can search online or go to ChristianAnswers.net, or another site may be carm.org (The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry). But for some answers, we are going to have to wait until the day we stand before God.

There are some things in the Bible that I don’t understand… things that I have to accept by faith. Not a blind or illogical faith, but faith nonetheless. Faith doesn’t go against reason, it goes beyond reason. And there are some things that you and I have to say, “I don’t understand this. But it’s in the Word of God and I’m willing to wait until I talk to the Author to get the full scoop.”

Now, I’ve been talking so far in very general terms. There are things we understand, and things we don’t. We can’t address all of them here this morning, so let’s just address one specific issue… Unanswered Prayer. And I don’t want to go overtime, so I’ll hurry… I’ll hurry hard.


What’s the Deal with Unanswered Prayer?

The Bible says that God answers our prayer. In fact the Bible promises that God answers our prayers. David wrote in Psalm 17…

Psalm 17:6 (NLT)
I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.

But you know and I know that sometimes that doesn’t seem to happen. How come? Well, people have proposed lots of potential reasons prayer seems to go unanswered, and if those reasons were compiled into one list, it would look something like this…

Potential Reasons for Unanswered Prayer:

1. Lack of Fellowship with God and His Word
2. Not seeking to please the Lord
3. Unconfessed Sin
4. Wrong / Improper Motives
5. Not asking in God’s will
6. Don’t know how to pray
7. Lack of Faith or Wavering Faith
8. Misunderstanding of Faith
9. Failure to pray in Jesus’ name (authority)
10. Lack of Perseverance

And I suppose most unanswered prayers could rightly be explained by one of or a combination of those reasons. On the other hand, I think sometimes people jump to conclusions about why prayer goes unanswered, usually blaming the one doing the praying. And I don’t think it’s super productive to tell people, “The reason that your prayers aren’t being answered is you. You have no faith, or the wrong faith or you’re just plain sinful.” Because that may not be true.

So beyond that list, I think we need to understand that there are actually some limits to prayer. Now, I know that we like to say that the power of prayer is unlimited. We also like to say, “God can do anything.” But that’s not completely true. Can He sin? No, God can’t sin. So God can’t do anything. But He can do anything He wants, and He doesn’t want to sin. And so God has some self-imposed limitations. And He has also imposed some limits on prayer. So let’s talk about four limits of prayer.


The Limits of Prayer:

1. God’s design for the world

For example, God’s design for this world is that we would accept Him as our Saviour so that when we die we will go to live with Him for all eternity. So how does that fit with all the prayers for healing? From time to time I hear people talk about healing, and occasionally they will say that God wants everyone to be healthy. And to a point I agree with that. However, the Bible does say…

Hebrews 9:27 (NLT)
…it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment…

People do not live forever, that’s a plain and simple fact of life. And because of that we shouldn’t be surprised when prayers for healing are not always answered. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of God to heal, and I know that God does heal people. But I also know that not everyone is healed. People die. Jesus Himself died and was raised to life again.

So if you ever hear someone preaching a health and wealth Gospel… one that tells you that if you have enough faith God will make you healthy and wealthy… then avoid that person. That’s a distortion of what the Bible teaches.

God can heal people, and He often does heal people. But His design for the world means that He can’t always heal people. It’s a Self-imposed limitation. And that doesn’t mean that you don’t pray for healing, but it means that when you pray, remember God is in control.

So yes, God hears your prayer and will respond to it… if it’s in keeping with His design for the world.

1 John 5:14 (NLT)
And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will.

A great example of this would be Jesus, when He prayed to His Father just before He was taken away and crucified. He knew what was coming and He wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, so He prayed…

Luke 22:42 (NLT)
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”

God heard the prayer, but could only respond in keeping with His will… with His design for the world.

Another limitation on answered prayer is…


2. God’s design of the world

I read a story this week about a pastor who came into his church one day and noticed a boy at the front praying. So he went over to comfort and support the child, and listened as the boy prayed. And when the boy was done, the pastor asked him, “I know you were praying but why did you keep repeating the same word over and over again… ‘Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo’?” To which the boy responded, “I just finished my geography test and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.”

Probably not going to happen. But we’re probably all guilty of praying prayers like that. I know there have been times that I’ve prayed for more hours in the day and unlimited energy so that I could accomplish all I wanted to do. But the sun still set at the usual time and I still needed my rest.

Maybe you’ve prayed for the ability to fly. But step off a building you will get hurt, because gravity isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law.

God created this world with certain laws in effect. Where did you think the laws of nature came from? They came from God. They’re His design of the world. And that’s a good thing. We need the universe to be a stable place to live. Design and order are necessary.

Now, can God work outside of those natural laws? Yes, He can and He has. For example, in the book of Joshua, Joshua prayed and God made the sun stand still. So Joshua gets more hours in the day, but I don’t.

That was a miracle. Most miracles are miracles because they go against a natural law. They’re not the norm. They’re not expected. They’re not what typically occurs. They’re extra-ordinary.

Sometimes people look at the miracles in the Bible and wonder why God doesn’t seem to perform miracles the same way today. First of all, I believe God does perform miracles today… more than you think. But I suppose those people are really wondering why God doesn’t perform more miracles like dividing the Red Sea, or making water flow out of a rock, or turning water into wine. And I would point out that the miracles described in the Bible occurred over the span of a couple thousand years, and so they weren’t exactly everyday occurrences even then.

And so it would seem that God is willing to occasionally work outside of the system, and when He does it’s for a specific reason. But most times He prefers to work within the limitations of the natural laws He has set up. So we shouldn’t be discouraged when it seems our prayers for a miracle go unanswered.


3. The will and decisions of other people

For example, one of our most frequent prayers here at Sunrise is that God will use us to lead the people of our communities into a relationship with Him. After all, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to introduce people to Jesus and help them grow in that newfound relationship. We’re here to populate Heaven. So we pray for people to come to know Him, and we should pray for that. Maybe you pray for the salvation of a family member. Maybe you’ve prayed the same prayer for years, and maybe you’ve seen little or no response to that prayer. Should you keep praying that prayer? By all means. It’s an extremely important prayer and one that you can be assured God wants to answer.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

But He also won’t violate free will. When He created us, He gave us the capability to make our own decisions. And He won’t violate that. He didn’t violate your free will to force you to become a Christian, and He won’t violate the free will of others to force them to become Christians. It’s a choice. Joshua expressed that in the Old Testament…

Joshua 24:15 (NIV)
“… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

It’s a choice, and God leaves the choice up to us. He will not violate the free will He has given us.

Nor will God force people to give up alcohol or drugs or a destructive lifestyle. Again, it’s free will. One of the greatest gift that He ever gave us was the freedom to make choices for ourselves, and He isn’t going to take that gift away from someone else simply because you pray for it, no matter how noble your motives are. So we should not be surprised when some of our prayers for others go unanswered, because they involve a choice on their part.


4. The existence of other people

On Friday, there was a tremendous upset at the Olympics when the women’s hockey team from Sweden beat the team from the U.S. Since 1990 when international tournaments began, Sweden had never beaten the U.S. In fact, over the course of 12 games the U.S. had outscored the Swedes by something like 95 goals to 12. A tremendous difference. It’s always been Canada and the U.S., and then everyone else. Sweden didn’t have a prayer, so to speak. So what happened? Could it have been that there were more people is Sweden praying than there were in the U.S.? Could their prayers have just cancelled each other out? Honestly, I don’t think that had anything to do with it. I think Sweden just had a great goalie and played hard while the Americans played sloppy. I mean, I believe God is intimately interested in every area of our lives, but I don’t think He typically takes sides in situations like that.

Probably the great example of this is weather. How many people pray for specific weather requests? I know I have. I suspect we are all guilty of that, right? “Lord let it be a nice day for my wedding, let it be a nice day for the picnic, let it rain for the crops, let it snow for the skiers.” Problem is, there are different people praying for the complete opposite thing everyday. Which prayer does God answer? What would happen if God granted everyone’s weather requests? Can you imagine? I mean, the weather would have to be different about every hundred feet! Some people would literally be walking around with a cloud over their head. It would have to be rainy in this field, and it would have to be sunny out behind this house. It would have to be eighty four degrees down Main Street, and there would have to be a ten foot pile of snow in every child’s backyard! It would be ridiculous!

And so we shouldn’t be surprised that isn’t how things work! Yes, the Bible teaches us that God is concerned about us as individual people, but it also tells us that God is concerned about nations and groups of people. And on some level, that means God has to be concerned about all of us together.


So there are certain limitations on God answering our prayers. And even beyond those limits, we need to remember that God created the universe, and most of us can’t even program our VCRs. This would lead me to believe that God is smarter than we are. Often, a prayer isn’t answered because it simply wouldn’t be in our best interest. Just ask yourself, what would happen if every prayer you had ever prayed had been answered? Who would you be married to? What would you be doing for a career? Where would you be living? Are you glad that some of those prayers weren’t answered, at least the way you wanted them to be answered? Sometime we just have to believe that God knows best. Maybe St. Teresa had it right when she said…

“There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.”
~ St. Teresa of Avila

Okay, so there are limitations. So what do we do about this? What do we do when our prayers aren’t answered? What do we do when the sick friend or family member doesn’t seem to be getting any better? What do we do when the person we’ve been praying for hasn’t come any closer to knowing to God? Does the fact that there are limits on our prayers mean that we should just give up? By no means. Here are a few suggestions…


What to Do when your Prayers aren’t Answered:

A. Be patient

Be patient. Many of the things that we pray for actually fit into God’s plan and His design, and He’s willing to answer them. But He wants to wait for the right timing. Yet we expect everything to happen overnight.

Psalm 37:7 (NLT)
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act.


B. Trust God’s wisdom and goodness

Every child knows that there are times when parents say “no”, and that they have demands their parents don’t fulfill. But what they may not understand is that when parents say “no”, it’s usually not because they’re being mean. It’s because they know better and want the best for their child.

So when it looks like a prayer isn’t being answered, don’t get your knickers in a knot! God hasn’t fallen off His throne. Whatever is happening for whatever reason, God knows about it. And you can trust His wisdom and His goodness.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood this. When King Nebuchadnezzar build a gold statue and ordered everyone to worship it, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused. Even when Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into a blazing furnace, they expressed their faith and trust in God.

Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT)
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Even if their prayers had seemed to go unanswered, they were not going to waver. Because they knew they could trust God’s wisdom and goodness.


C. Ask for understanding

If a prayer isn’t being answered, then go ahead and ask God, “why?” We’re often told, “don’t question God.” But I think it’s perfectly fine to ask God “why” when we’re seeking to understand and to grow. If we ask God to teach us, we can learn something.

Read through the Psalms… they’re full of people asking God “why?” As in Psalm 42…

Psalm 42:9 (NLT)
“O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forsaken me? Why must I wander in darkness, oppressed by my enemies?”

So it’s alright to ask God “why?” He’s okay with that.

James 1:5 (CEV)
If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you for asking.


D. Keep on praying

Perhaps the best thing we can do when a prayer goes unanswered is to keep praying! It’s easy to get discouraged when a prayer hasn’t been answered. It gets hard to keep praying when we don’t see direct results. But we ought to keep praying because the Bible and our experience both tells us that God answers prayer. Every time we pray there is the real possibility that God will do something about our request.

Luke 18:1-8 (NLT)
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. ‘I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, ‘but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly!”

So be persistent with your prayers. If it’s in keeping with God’s will and God’s design and God’s plan, then there’s a good chance He’ll answer it.

Or maybe sometimes your prayer will continue to go unanswered. And you may not understand why. God would know, but you may not. But even when that happens… Be patient! Trust God’s wisdom and goodness! Ask for understanding! Keep on praying!

In fact, let’s pray together now.


[Much of the message adapted from material by Denn Guptill.]





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