“By the second move, there are 72,084 possible games. By the third, 9 million. By the fourth – there are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the universe. No one could possibly predict them all, even you. Which means that that first move can be terrifying. It’s the furthest point from the end of the game, there’s a virtually infinite sea of possibilities between you and the other side. But it also means that if you make a mistake, there’s a nearly infinite amount of ways to fix it” – Harold Finch in If-Then-Else by Denise Thé, in Jonathan Nolan’s Person of Interest
It seems counter-intuitive that, as each move occurs, and pieces dwindle, that a chess game actually moves progressively into greater possibilities rather than a tighter deadlock. I once watched a chess champion take over what seemed like a losing game – almost all pieces captured, and no clear way forward. But in the command of a brilliant player, the few remaining pieces proceeded to completely decimate the opposing army – then checkmate the king. At first, a defeat seemed inevitable. But in the hands and perspective of a champion, the impossible was possible.
If there is endless possibility within 64 squares, how much more in a world and a life with endless variables? Jesus claimed that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). No matter how poorly you may believe you may have played in life, no matter how late in the game, how old in age, how great the loss, how far in debt, how deep in trouble, how severe the prognosis, how lacking in experience or education, how lost or uncertain – it is never too late or too much for Him to checkmate the enemy, never impossible to claim the victory Christ has already won for you. With Him, not even a dead man can be kept in the grave. He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and gives you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) that is exceedingly and abundantly above anything you could ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and it is only possible through Him. It sounds too good to be true, but “the good news” is always even better than we dare to think or hope.
It’s always a cheating ruse – a lie – that it’s over. A ruse to make you forfeit what is actually an already secure victory. If you give Christ your cares, believe and not doubt, trust and not meddle by trying to turn your stones to bread, but let Him make the play for you (Psalm 55:22), no matter how little you believe you have to offer – even if you think you’re handing him a losing game, even if you only believe you have a few loaves and fishes in the face of feeding a multitude - you’ll be in position to see something only a Grand Master can do.
Unlike chess, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against a spiritual enemy who opposes us (Ephesians 6:12). He has the full intention to take pieces – to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Unfortunately for him, he’s already lost (Revelation 12:9), he is contending with omnipotence. You have in your defense a Grand Master with the highest thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:9). The enemy may intend his moves for evil, but God can always outplay his schemes so that they become for your good (Genesis 50:20) and “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30). It is God who directs your steps (Proverbs 16:9), who restores your soul and leads you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, so that even in the valley of the shadow of death, you will have nothing to fear – because He is with you (Psalm 23).
I’ve heard of a chess master laughing privately (to his opponent’s puzzlement) in the middle of a game. It turns out he was laughing about the elegance of a move twenty moves in advance, so great was his foresight in strategy. And indeed, twenty moves later, his unwitting opponent was completely blindsided. In the same way, God speaks in past tense about the battles you are currently fighting, calling into being the things that do not exist (Romans 4:17), declaring the conquering of Jericho before its walls have even fallen (Joshua 2:6), declaring victory in Christ even while you are still in it. From outside of time, He already knows the victory is coming. So why not laugh with Him now? Why not believe His promise, and praise Him now, even when the pieces don’t yet seem to have an apparent order, even in the face of what seems like certain defeat. His promises are actually surer evidence than what we see with our eyes, and we live by faith, and not by sight. We may not see how because it’s such a brilliant play, one outside a rookie’s repertoire, one that only a Grand Master could orchestrate. But in this game, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, is still standing victoriously, having incapacitated and taken the keys of the enemy (Revelation 1:18).
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”
(John 16:33 ESV)
Be brave. “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5 NIV). “It is finished”. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).