The end of the first half found this Patriots fan resigned to a loss; after all, no team had ever overcome such a lead to win a SuperBowl. When the second half opened with yet another Falcon touchdown and the point deficit grew to 25, I settled in to watch the sad march to the end.
“It just can’t be turned around,” I declared to those watching the game with me. But, in that crazy game of football, especially when the Pats are playing, it’s just not over until it’s actually over! The last 20 minutes of this game were exciting, amazing, as one drive after another turned into points and the gap closed. Those who know the game better than I am will suggest all the reasons for the Patriot’s win. What I saw were men who simply refused to give up and play out the clock. Despite being tired, bruised, and fighting against all probability – they kept at it!
What a parable for life. We all have times when it seems like there is no way forward. When I laid my beloved wife’s body in the ground 13 months ago, it was hard to think that laughter would ever return. More than once in my own 6 decades I have missed opportunities or made very wrong decisions that put me a long way from where I needed to be. I have been dismissed as a failure. But, God be praised, with faith I chose to trust Him, to do what needed to be done, to seek the Spirit’s way. Joy has returned. Sins became moments to find new grace. Disappointments made me realize, anew, the importance of dependence on Him and the value of the team that surrounds me.
The Apostle Paul was beaten up by life, opposed by enemies – spiritual and human – and dismissed as just a big talker by some. He, too, concluded at one point that the game was played and over. But God was not finished with him. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11, NIV)
- Daniel might well have concluded that his life was over, before it even started, when the Assyrians took him from Jerusalem to become a servant of the court of Babylon, but God turned a slave into a counselor to kings, changing history. Daniel did his part by doing what was right and godly, even when it looked as if he had no reason to do it.
- David walked into a face to face challenge that looked ridiculous, a hero on the other side named Goliath, and he, a teenage shepherd from a backwater village. Mocked by the champion, David showed his heart. “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46)
- Jesus was taken down from the Cross, buried by dispirited friends who thought it was over. I would like to know what the conversation was like on Saturday. Regrets, perhaps? Recrimination? But, God was not finished. His Son had entrusted Himself to the Almighty and on Sunday morning, the earth shook, the stone rolled away and death was conquered.
Our strength is not blind faith. It is Christ-centered faith. We are not fatalists fumbling our way to the finish. We are people of purpose, called to follow the Spirit, assured of His promise and our ultimate place at the Throne of God. So, let’s go make a difference. Finish the game, for the glory of God.
The word from the Word: “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:16-20, NLT)
He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV)
You stood before creation
Eternity in Your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand
You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders
My soul now to stand
So what can I say
And what can I do
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You
So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your Spirit alive in me
My life to declare Your promise
My soul now to stand
So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
My soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours
Joel Houston © 2005 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055