As a boy, I enjoyed spending time watching and talking about football with my father. One story I heard Dad talk about was the Rose Bowl.
The Rose Bowl was being played between the University of California and Georgia Tech on New Year's Day in 1929. Roy Riegels, a University of California player, made history that day. When a Georgia Tech player fumbled the ball, Riegels picked it up and began to run 65 yards toward the end zone. There was only one problem. Riegels was running to the wrong end zone!
For a moment all the other players froze. If Riegels made it to the wrong end zone, he would score a touchdown for the visiting team. One of Riegels’ teammates took off after him, catching up to Riegels inside the 5-yard line. Thinking he was a hero, Riegels soon discovered he was being laughed at by people in the stands.
It was right before half-time. The clock soon ran out sending the players into the locker room. The University of California players silently walked into the room. They all sat on benches or on the floor. All except Riegels. He put a blanket around his shoulders, covered his head, and sobbed.
Football coaches usually have a lot to say at half-time. They talk strategy and give pep talks. But Coach Price was silent. He was trying to figure out what to say. It wasn’t long before he was told the game would start again in three minutes.
Coach Price looked at his team and said, “Men, the same team that played in the first half will start the second half.” The players stood and moved quickly toward the door. But Riegels didn’t move.
The coach looked back and gently called out Riegels’ name. No reply. Then Coach Price walked over to Riegels and said softly, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? I said the same players who started the first half will start the second half.”
Riegels lifted his head and replied, “Coach, I can’t go back out. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the university. I’ve ruined myself. I cannot face that crowd.”
Coach Price put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go back out. The game is only half over.”
Riegels did get up and go back out on the field. Players from both teams testified to Riegels’ energy, intensity and focus in the second half. Riegels did not give up and allow a discouraging moment to influence him to quit. He played some of his best football ever.
Reflect for a moment on the truth of Coach Price’s words. “Roy, get up and go back out. The game is only half over.” Do not give up. There is still time to make a difference.
There are many gospel truths embedded in this story. No matter what mistakes we make, God is willing to forgive us. We are not condemned because of our mistakes but encouraged to get back up and keep going forward.
We may fumble and stumble, but God still loves us. We may even run toward the wrong goal line and have people laugh at us, but we are chosen and accepted by Christ. We might be so ashamed of the things we have done that we don’t want to face the crowd.
Jesus tells us to get back up and get going because life is not over and as long as we are breathing, we can make a positive difference in this world. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep going forward, living life in Christ. Keep experiencing Jesus’ grace and God’s love every day.
Our North Pacific Union theme for the next few years is “Reaching One More.” It is centered in mission. All the resources of heaven are being poured out for the salvation of men, women and children. We are called by Jesus to work with heaven to invite people to receive salvation, experience grace and enter the Kingdom of God.
“Reach One More” is the mission! It is why we share Christian books, magazines and literature. It is why our church has media ministries like It is Written, Voice of Prophecy, Faith for Today and Adventist World Radio. It is why we have Christian schools, summer camps and Vacation Bible Schools. It is why we invite people to church services and evangelistic meetings. We are called to reach people while we are still able to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Friends, we should not give in to discouragement over past failures, or be distracted by world events, or worry about the state of our country or economy. Yes, we should pray over all these things and vote as responsible citizens. However, let’s not get distracted from our mission. Focus on Jesus and the mission in which He has called us to participate. Reach One More person for Jesus. Invite one more person to find salvation in Christ.