Nearly half of 2009 is behind us now with only a few months left in the current year. Having brought this to your attention, let us consider this month’s offering a regrouping of sorts, our retiring to the locker room for a halftime confab. I played a lot of organized sports in my younger years and a lot of halftimes languish back there in my past. Some of them were rough. “What are you doing out there, Mitchell?” my red-faced coach would say. A few were upbeat. “Way to go guys! I like your intensity! Keep it up!” You’ll notice when things were bad, the captain (me) was singled out. When things were going well, the captain received no honorable mention.
Then there were those halftimes like the one in 1977. ‘Twas the gridiron of Lemon Street Stadium in Marietta, under the Friday night lights. We were getting beat so bad and not just on the scoreboard. When you’re down by almost thirty points, there’s not a lot a coach can say. Worse than the score, however, our locker room looked like a MASH unit. Nearly every guy had blood on his jersey, pants and running down his legs. Our star player was writhing in pain from a broken ankle and awaiting transport to a local hospital. Our quarterback’s arm was so bruised he could no longer lift it to throw a pass. We were dehydrated, debilitated and defeated. The coach could see it and, rather than chewing out our behinds, went quietly from soldier to soldier, patting us on our shoulder pads and offering encouragement. “You’ll need to soak in a bath of Epsom salt tonight, Scott.” He didn’t even call me by my last name.
The great thing about that halftime was that not a single player that was still sturdy enough to stand had an ounce of quit in him. When intermission was over, every last one of us went back out on that field.
I wish I could give you the “Hollywood-ized” version and say we crawled all the way back and won in the final minute. No, we most certainly did not. But we didn’t quit. “Character,” someone said, “is determined by how much it takes to stop you.” From the looks on the faces of our adversaries as we shook hands at the end, we could see respect in their eyes. We were inferior, our equipment was shoddy, and our game plan suspect.
Right about now some of us are bloodied and exhausted by relentless spiritual attack and the opposition of the world. The Apostle Paul didn’t give a speech but wrote a letter during his own “halftime” recounting the bloody battles of the first stanza:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
(2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Against the backdrop of bleakness, Paul offers the greatest “rah-rah” cheer ever known. From that locker room it was not the sound of sorrow and sniveling but songs of praise and shouting that were offered!
Inferior? Hardly, for resurrection power caused them to rise as mammoths over the adversary. Out-of-date uniforms? Pshaw! For inside their jars of clay was the glorious Treasure of the Life of Christ who reined. Faulty game plan? Not on your life! Inwardly, we are being renewed and an eternal weight of glory outweighs anything we may suffer.
Don’t you quit, beloved. Spend some time in God’s locker room and get renewed.
And get back out on that field!