The Fourth Quarter
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Hebrews 10:36
Well, it's playoff season and for those who love basketball, it's a very exciting time of year. For me, I'm not too interested and I haven't really watched a whole game since Michael Jordan and the Bulls won a championship, and that was, well, a very long time ago. My husband on the other hand loves basketball and rarely misses a playoff game. Me, I peek in from time to time to see what’s going on and to ask my husband who's winning just for conversation and to show just a little bit of interest.
In my times of peering in, I've noticed that in the first half of the game, the players are quite energetic and enthusiastic. They come out blazing, blocking, jumping, running, and pressing with much agility and endurance. I have to say they play pretty aggressively in the first half of the game. From my brief observations, it appears that as time goes by they gradually start to lose their stamina. By the time they get to the fourth quarter, they are bent over, labored in their breathing, exhausted, struggling, looking like they can barely go on, and yearning for the game to be over. It’s in the fourth quarter that they need the extra push, perseverance, and stamina to press forward to the win.
I'm sure you've experienced or are maybe at this very moment are experiencing a “fourth quarter” in your life. Losing spiritual stamina. Laboring and toiling. Struggling and spiritually out of breath from the cumulation of life's trials and you're just worn out. Discouraged, overwhelmed, and in much need of an extra push; strength, and endurance. God knows this has been a time of unusual happenings and intense amounts of stress. It's been a WHOLE lot lately endeavoring to fight and run this race of faith. Comparably to a basketball player almost at the end of a long hard game. Extremely fatigued, fighting and trying to go hard for the win, with hardly any energy left and little time left on the clock.
During one of my quick glances of the game, I saw a player who was injured by a member of the opposing team. He was limping and seemingly in a lot of pain. So much so that he had to be assisted off the court. Maybe you are "limping" at this very moment. Struggling through some things. Hurt. Rundown and discouraged and in desperate need of some assistance. You're in the press and you don't have the strength to press.
The apostle Paul exhorts, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Let's dig a little deeper to gain instruction, aim, and encouragement from this powerful and fitting verse of Scripture.
In the game of basketball, there is a playing style called a full-court press. The "press" is short for pressure. The objective is to force a turnover. To my surprise, the word meaning of "press" in Greek kind of has a similar meaning", When the apostle Paul says, "I press on" in this verse, it means "to pursue", "to persecute". Additional meanings; earnestly desire to overtake or apprehend and this one brings the ball on home, "Aggressively chase like a hunter pursuing a catch."This expresses very figuratively how we are to approach our race of faith. This is not a casual walk or stroll in the park. This is an aggressive intentional run! A run for our eternal lives, with purpose and haste in every step. Not by might nor by power but by His Spirit.
Give ear to the words of our Saviour:
"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. The Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." John 14:16-18
What a wondrous and precious gift. The gift of the Holy Spirit. To have Him is to have Jesus Himself and with Him, we can do and endure all things. Be mightily encouraged that in Christ, the Holy Spirit in you, are equipped to press and run toward the goal in triumph.
A "goal" specifically refers to the marker at the end of a race on which runners intently fix their eyes. The prize is the reward for winning. Every team has a goal that they are pressing toward to clutch the win. For basketball, it's the championship trophy. For the olympian, the highest goal is the gold medal. For believers, it's the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. As a basketball hoop is an aim for the basketball player, Jesus in His fullness is the aim for the believer. The upward call is knowing Christ and to be conformed to His image and the test, trials, disappointments, hardships, and disciplining in righteousness are all a part of the spiritual training needed for us to mature into Christ-likeness. This training empowers us to run the race already won and marked out for us.
It's not an easy race for the believer. The entryway is the narrow gate and the Scripture tells us that the narrow gate will be difficult and there will be only a few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) Oh but if we keep our eyes on the prize! Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) When our strength is depleted, and we patiently wait on Him, He is faithful to replenish us and endow us with power and endurance to follow Him.
In Christ Jesus
Jesus is our Forerunner and our position in Him guarantees the win. The word "in" in Greek denotes position. A relation of rest. One thing we are assured of in this fallen world is suffering but in Christ, we are also assured of rest. When the troubles of life weigh us down we have a blessed place of security and quiet calm. Not just in the times of trial but in times of triumph. All-time we have a permanent resting place in our Lord and Savior. A continual, steadfast, enduring, loving, and empowering position in Jesus. He lovingly bids us, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Just as the limping basketball player needs rest to take the weight off the injury we have a place of deep abiding in Christ to find rest and unburden the weight of life's difficulties.
Regarding one team's difficulty of lagging far behind in the basketball game, one commentator mentioned that, that particular team, no matter how bad they are losing is known to come back and win the game. I encourage you as I'm encouraging myself, no matter how far behind you “think” you are; in Christ, you win! You are still in the race. There may be times by all appearances that you may think you're losing, too far behind, exhausted, and have no hope.
It may look like the healing is not going to happen. It may look like the prodigal is not going to return home. It may look like the unbelieving spouse will not ever receive Jesus. It may look like you'll never get the job. It may feel like the heartbreak will never subside. You may feel like you're too old for God to use you. Too debilitated for God to use you. It may look like you're not fulfilling your ministry. You may feel like you're never going to break free from what you've been struggling with. It seems as if as soon as you catch your breath and gain some ground here comes another hurdle to jump over.
It may look like a losing battle but take heart today! Hold on! It's the end of the fourth quarter with only a little time life on the clock! You may be weary. Drained. Bushed. Spent. Hurt. Crushed and faltering in your faith but know that God is able to keep you from falling! Stay anchored in Him!
In spiritual drought? Drink freely of the Living Water.
Tired? Rest in the Vine.
Losing hope? Build yourself up in your most holy faith, praying in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20)
I exhort you with all urgency to seek Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6) Aggressively like a ravenous hunter after his catch, chase, pursue and press into the Word, to the heart of God, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. His enduring grace will keep you in times of spiritual drought and always enabling and empowering you to stand.
Contemplate this truth when at the crossroads of suffering, "Thus says the Lord, "Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your soul." (Jeremiah 6:16)
Press on in the strength of the Lord to fight the good fight of faith. Don't throw away the confident trust in the Lord! Remember the great reward it will bring!
Don't give out now!
It's a clean sweep!
We win! We win!
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57
Scriptures not sighted
John 14:26 John 16:7-8 1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
Acts 1:8 Ephesians 1:17-20 John 16:13-15 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Ephesians 1:13 Romans 8:26-27 Romans 8:10-11 Galatians 5:22-25
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