Sister to Sister: It’s about the Overtime

I don’t know a lot about NFL football. I was not even present for the first three quarters of that game last night. Even after I got my father situated at the end of the third in front of the TV, got the babies changed and pajama-ed after worship, got everyone a piece of pizza and had a prayer, I could not have told you the score. But the momentum of that fourth quarter was enough to move even the most lukewarm easy chair observer. 

But this Falcons-Patriots fifty-first Super Bowl match-up was, in one sense, the most exciting of all Super Bowl games because it went into overtime. Never before has a Super Bowl game gone into overtime. And this overtime proved to be the undoing of a team that had kept the lead for about 59 of the previous 60 minutes, at one time having led by 25 points.

The thing that always strikes me about overtime is the fact that it is a brand new fresh start. Both teams begin again, just as at the initial toss of the coin…on level ground with an even score, the same number of time outs and the same luck of the toss. All interceptions, errors, fumbles and missed kicks are erased. From many perspectives, it’s just as if the four previous hard-played quarters never even occurred. 

That’s what life is like for Christians. We live in overtime. All the mistakes and interceptions and fumbles of the past life of sin are erased when we come out of the waters of baptism. We begin again with a brand new chance to finish strong. No matter that we spent three quarters lagging terribly behind in the devil’s territory. No matter that we allowed more points than we ever should have given up to the opposition. No matter than we lost a lot of opportunities and allowed strong opponents to run right over us. No matter that we let a lot of mentors and supporters down. We get to start all over again and what matters is not the last four quarters of squandered chances. The only thing that counts now is what we do with the overtime. 

I’m not so big on NFL ball. I’m glad the Pats won. I was pulling for them because my son’s a fan.  But I’m very big on the extension that we have in Jesus after the buzzer. Unlike the Patriots, we could never deserve a second chance. We’ve failed miserably and we cannot recover by playing hard and tying up the game. The blood of Jesus offered at Calvary evens the score. It gives us hope of winning once again. And the prize is not a trophy, fame, money or a place in the hall of fame. The prize is eternal life. It’s a prize, unlike the Super Bowl championship, that will be of ultimate importance a hundred years from now and, from hence, throughout a timeless state of existence.  

For Tom Brady, I know it was important to forget the previous sixty minutes and view the next few seconds of overtime as simply “all that mattered”. For me, it’s important to remember what God has forgotten. He’s  forgotten all my sins and iniquities to remember them no more (Hebrews 10:17).  Paul thought about His overtime reprieve this way in Philippians 3:13,14:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

From the Archives: All Dirty Uniforms Welcome!

softball-340488_960_720Question:When ball games, work, or other activities in which our young people may participate require them to leave mid-game, mid-practice etc…in order to make it to the services of the church, is it a wrong thing for them to wear their uniforms to worship services or Bible classes?

Answer:

Are you kidding me? What better statement to the church, the world, the Lord and the devil can a young person make than the one he wears to that service! He says “I was involved in what many people consider to be the most important part of life: sports. But that’s not the most important thing to me.” She says “ I’ve had to make it clear to those on my team and to my coach that my participation in this activity is a distant second to my faithfulness to the assemblies of God’s people.” It is a statement that so many of our adults need to hear.

When our young people wear ball uniforms to worship, my husband stands from the pulpit and makes a very clear object lesson from the young people who sit there in that attire. He says something along these lines: “We are so blessed to have young people of faith who chose to be at the gospel meeting tonight. Look at these guys in their uniforms. They left the field at the bottom of the seventh inning. They don’t know whether their team has won or lost. But there is one victory they are determined to win and it is the most important one. We are privileged to have men in uniform in our midst. And it’s a blessing to get to clean up a little dirt if it falls from the cleats of these guys. I know you will tell them how proud you are of the choice they made tonight.”

I have, unfortunately, heard of those who have criticized these young people for wearing uniforms to services. How could any church member get his conscience’s consent to discourage a teen or child who has made such an extremely difficult decision by criticizing the wearing of the uniform? I would be afraid of the wrath of Diety who called a little child to him and said “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven…But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for Him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the sea.”

For every one of these children who show up in uniform there are generally several adults who made conscious choices to be elsewhere that Wednesday night or during that particular service of the meeting. Perhaps our time would be better spent addressing the decisions of those who are failing to seek first the kingdom (lovingly helping them arrange priorities), than addressing whether or not the kids who made courageous decisions to fly in the face of negative peer pressure are spic and span when the first song begins. May their souls always be clean. May their lives always be unspotted. But let all dirty uniforms be welcome!