Monday, December 07, 2009

The Fourth Quarter

In watching a sporting event on television over a recent holiday weekend, there is one thing that is obvious to me: you have to play all four quarters. It is nice to get a good lead in the first half, but you still have to play the whole game. More often than not, the last two minutes are important and in the case of a recent game featuring two rivals that came down to a score with less than two seconds on the clock, the last two seconds were very important.

I am now in my sixties. Any way you look at it, I am in the fourth quarter of my life, certainly the fourth quarter of my productive years. Anything beyond eighty years is probably overtime. At sixty-one I am definitely starting the fourth quarter. Running out the clock or going to a knee, as sometimes happens in American football, at this point just doesn’t seem very sportsman like, even if I had a good lead going.

I know many people my age who are eyeing the clock figuring that they can coast to the finish line, that is, if they haven’t already given up or headed for the showers. The funny thing is I feel as good as I ever have, I’m not tired, I’m more creative, and I know a lot more. It may be time to revise the game plan, make better choices, or play like the game is one the line, but just run out the clock? I don’t think so.

The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of life being like running a race. The point being that you run all the way to the end. In I Corinthians 9:24 he said “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

We seem to have gotten the idea that at some point we can take it out of gear, coast, and still win the race. This is a relative new idea dating from the 19th and 20th century. Germany was the first country to introduce the idea of retirement in 1880. Now many, if not most people, in industrialized countries consider retirement a basic right. Whether or not a person keeps working in their career or not after a certain age should be a personal decision. We should, however, continue to serve the Lord and serve others in various capacities as long as we are able.

In Philippians 3:14 Paul says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew that at that point the race was not over, he was pressing on until the game was over.

As for me, I intend to play hard until the final gun, whistle, Gabriel’s trumpet, or whatever it is that stops the game. After all we owe it to the coach, our team, and ourselves. That is why we were put here, to play the game until the end.