Back in Junior High School of 1967 I found myself suited up in a helmet, shoulder pads and cleats and standing on a football field with twenty or so other young boys. After several days of tryouts, I was chosen for the position of First String Center, the guy who snaps the football to the Quarterback. My father, who enjoyed watching almost all types of sports, was elated! With a slap on my helmet and a "Good going, boy!", my one year career with the Ashley Aces began.
Now, most young men would be thrilled at the prospect of being out on a football field with hundreds of parents, grandparents and the fellow student body cheering them on, but for me, well, let's just say that dad wanted me to play so I played. I was more of the outdooorsman type and was always thinking of fishing, hunting and just being in the woods. I was never an "'athlete", but I played the game the best I could. Unfortunately, my performance and the team's performance never was quite good enough for my father. It wasn't long before he was giving our Ashley Aces a new name. While I can't actually write it down for you, I am sure you can figure it out if I simply tell you that for him the "Aces" part of the name became another, more descriptive word of how he felt we played. It starts with an "A" as well.
No longer with dad's enthusiasm, I played on. Even though I continued to play poorly, I still played every game and was just as proud as any other team member when, in front of the entire school body, we were presented with our 8th Grade Varsity Athletic Letter and a gold-toned football pin. I still have them both, tucked away in my "memory trunk". Oh sure, we made lots of mistakes but we played hard and finished the season low in ranking. But the main thing is we continued to play and were rewarded in the end for our efforts. I have found this to also be true in my Christian walk. In all honesty, there are plenty of times when I am not playing this game very well.
I received Jesus into my life on Father's Day, 1977. That's almost 32 years ago! WOW! During those 32 years of trying to live a Christian life the best way that I could, I certainly fell short on more than just a few occasions. Before Jesus, I had done a few drugs. Nothing major really. Popped a few of those and smoked a little of that. I quit them all the day I went forward to meet Him. That is, until about 5 years later when I was depressed and turned back to the natural comforters instead of turning to the Spiritual Comforter. It wasn't the same so I quit again. Then there were the countless times when I "lost my religion" and uttered profanity, or exhibited my temper and yes, perhaps became a little too abusive to my children. One of my more recent times of falling short, of not living my Christianity very well, was when I opted to divorce my first wife instead trying to work things out.
So why am I sharing all of this with you? Why am I opening myself up for your judgment? I hope it is to encourage you. The Apostle Paul wrote in Phillipians chapter 3; "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it (perfection). But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus". (Phi. 3:12-14)
You see, unlike most humans God just wants us to play the game the best we can. He wants us to try and try and try again. Sure we'll get knocked back a little from time to time, but our eyes should be on the goal, on the prize that awaits us. It doesn't help our game at all if we are constantly looking back at our past failures and shortcomings. What gets us to the finish is focusing on God and straining toward what is ahead.
I don't know about you, but I want to "Letter" in this game more than any other and when it's finally over for me, I want to be standing before all the Heavenly bodies and hear "Well done, good and faithful servant! You fought a good fight and won!". Allow me to encourage you today to forget what is behind and to strain toward what is ahead, to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Read more articles by Bud Burke or search for articles on the same topic or others.