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Halftime

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting
those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 3:13,14

Good Enough 03


Sometimes we need to take a break from the main stream of life, change our pace, and assess where we are and where we are going. In the world of sports, this break is called "halftime." Usually, it happens at the midpoint of the game and though it only lasts a short time, the effects are often dramatic and are game changers to say the least. The short break to catch a breath, rehydrate and assess the first half score as well as remember the goal of victory in the context of the time remaining is critically valuable. The greatest comeback in NFL playoff history happened in 1992 during the wild card playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers. The Bills trailed the Oilers 35-3 at halftime, but came back to win the game 41-38. And, there have been numerous victories by teams who were losing at half time but made the needed adjustments in attitudes and actions and ended up winners. Every great team has the potential to do great things the second half.

Whether it's halftime with football or the 7th inning stretch with base ball, intermission is important. The spectators watch the halftime show but the players regroup and refuel to finish the game. Christianity is not a spectator sport; rather it is a game of grace, a spiritual warfare played in an arena called life and bounded by a time period between two eternities. The official time allotted is 70 years, but allowances are made for the game ending sooner or lasting longer.

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is there strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Psalm 90:10

The great and official time keeper is God Almighty. Even though time means nothing to Him, He has made it clear that it should mean something to us. The game begins for the believer at the new birth. The new birth or being born again is when the heart of a spiritually dead alien sinner is made alive by the intruding Holy Spirit. Obviously, the child of grace receiving this divine jolt of life has nothing whatsoever to do with it. It only happens because for some mysterious reason beyond the narrow mind to comprehend, an unconditionally loving God who created everything, chose him or her in Christ before He even created the universe. This person has been given eternal life, forgiven of all sins, and is destined to live forever with the Heavenly Father in Heaven. The game of life, or time here on earth, is granted to promote the glory of God through holy living, prayer, and trust in Jesus Christ even though we cannot physically see Him. You would think when God saves us, He would just take us right to Heaven, but He doesn't. His glory and sacrifice has more meaning when we have to face opponents, trials, sorrows, and defeats. His promises are more precious when we actually experience the reality of all things working together for good and His power within us being greater than the woo of the world and the devil.

The span of time called life for the child of God is a wonderful gift, but we often waste it or take it for granted. Perhaps we don't consider time as important as we should because time brings changes and most of us do not like changes. That's why life in Christ is about conforming us to His image. Ecclesiastes chapter three and verse one says that everything has a season and every purpose has a time. Even though the context there is vanity, as Christians we should always remember that our time on earth is a gift from our Heavenly Father, and how we live it shows our appreciation to Him for it. The "bookends" of life cited in Ecclesiastes reflect our mortality in the flesh, yet stir our spiritual senses to want to do all for the glory of the Father who loves us so. We know all too well we don't deserve anything but hell, and that our feeble efforts cannot earn us any merit with a Holy God. We are saved by grace through faith for the purpose of doing good works. So our redeemed lives here on earth have a purpose and that purpose is to glorify God with all we have, wherever we are, for as long as we can. Life can be overwhelming at times. Our successes can cause us to forget the Lord, while our defeats can discourage us so that we think He has forgotten us. As we begin this new year, maybe it would help to take a "halftime" break so that we can get back into the game of life. While none of us know when the "halftime" of our lives may be, it doesn't matter, the principles of this sacred reprieve ought to strengthen our walk with the Lord Jesus and brighten our witness in this dark world. Our text verse is sort of a halftime assessment of the Apostle Paul's life. He realized he had accomplished much through Christ, yet a much greater prize lay before him. The high point of the Apostle's break time seems to be when he decided to forget the negatives of the past and press forward to the great prize, the Lord Jesus Christ. As already noted, great teams who make good halftime adjustments may perform poorly the first half, yet they come out a different team in the second half. Halftime is pivotal in achieving victory!

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, al-ways abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
I Corinthians 15:58

For sure our victory in and over life is by and in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Bible clearly says that we have a race to win, a course to finish and a life to live for Him who died for us. Before we make any new years resolutions, maybe we should humble ourselves at Jesus' feet for a halftime pep talk.

Back Up To Go Forward

Halftime is the time to reflect on the past. If we are going to move forward in 2019, we may need to back up first. I remember growing up in the country when nobody had four wheel drive trucks. Four wheel drives trucks are as common as cell phones today and one wonders how anybody could live without either. Hardly ever did anyone get stuck in the mud or sand with a two wheel drive truck though. If you got in a tough spot with a two wheel drive truck you would have to "rock it" back and forth. In other words, gently move forward a little then go backward some. It seemed like the more ground you covered backing up, the more forward progress you would make, until finally you got to higher ground or the "hard" road.

Backing up to go forward is a foundational principle for a Christian's halftime experience. It is also a godly principle when you consider that confessing our sins (backing up) is how we move forward in sanctification and service. Moses spent forty years in Egypt before taking a halftime break in the land of Midian after slaying an Egyptian. He probably spent many days and nights rehashing his decisions, successes and failures, while in Pharaoh's palace and among the Israelites. It was during that halftime experience though that Moses heard God speak out of the burning bush and that sparked his great halftime comeback to lead the Israelites to a second half victory though the Red Sea.

Honesty is essential to have a meaningful halftime. No matter what the score is, the game is only half over. Just because we're winning at the half doesn't mean our opponents wonít gain the momentum and overcome us in the second half; and, if we haven't done so great the first half it doesn't mean we can't make some adjustments, do better, and show the world what a mighty God we serve. When I'm honest, I learn a lot more from my failures than I do my successes. Honesty will humble us and that's exactly what kind of halftime we need. While humility may require going back, it is the one way to get on the right track for victory.

"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of the Lord, and He shall lift you up."

Stop and think

Halftime is when the game stops! Most of us are in such a rush that we forget the basics of life. Recently I overheard a youngcollege graduate talking about an interview with a prospective employer where the owner of the business stated that the number one consideration as far as employees were concerned was that they spend time with their families. When you stop and think, that firm is pretty smart because most likely a good family life means a productive vocational life as well.

Applied spiritually, if we really stop and think, we will be eager for the second half to start because our confidence in God will be overflowing. Stop and think:
     - God loves us and never stops loving us.
     - Jesus Christ died on Calvary's cross in our place.
     - The shed blood of Jesus means all our sins are forgiven.
     - The Lord will never leave us.
     - We can do anything God calls us to do through Jesus Christ.
     - Jesus Christ is alive and hears our prayers.
     - No matter what the circumstance, God will provide a way to glorify Him.
     - God is right now working and causing everything to work for our good and His glory.
     - The Lord knows when even a little sparrow falls.
     - Everything is borrowed, God owns it all.
     - We breathe God's air.
     - God made us and has put us where we are.
     - Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
     - Even though God may hurt us, He will never harm us.
     - God has a plan for our lives.

I could go on and so could you! When we stop and think, God gets bigger, and our problems get smaller. Therefore, a first half deficit doesn't frighten us nearly as much. A good halftime causes us to speak to ourselves instead of listening to ourselves. The Christian is a soldier fighting a spiritual warfare and so we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Stopping and thinking means we rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness in which we are clothed, not our merit or performance. Remember, we are "made accepted in the beloved" according to Ephesians chapter one verse six. When we stop and think we assess the time we have left; we number our days. And we review our approach to life and worship by stopping and thinking. We don't like to stop and think because we have sinned and we don't want to think about it. The thing is, we won't do very well with the second half of life carrying the sins which Christ has nailed to His cross. Thinking about our sins also results in our thinking about our Savior as our most precious treasure. Halftime is when we hear the truth and weep over our sins rather than listening to a motivational speech and ignoring our sins.

The Old Testament patriarch Job suffered unexplainable loss and pain. His faith faltered and his friends failed to understand him. Finally, when he was able to stop and think he was able to trust God without an explanation as God revealed to him, His sovereignty. After devastating first half losses, Job came back after a halftime experience with God and recovered two fold his first half losses.

"And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." Job 42:10

Want It To Win It

Halftime is when a sports team is reminded of what is at stake in the second half. Victory or defeat! Itís time to "suck it up," "bow your back," and give an all out effort to preserve the lead or overcome a deficit. The Apostle Paul gives us a Christian perspective of this halftime principle by describing just how much he wanted the victory. The Apostle used motivating terms like "reaching forth" and "pressing toward" to explain just how much he wanted to win, to show that he wanted it, and to acknowledge the struggle to get there. Yet, in the same letter he cited his dependence upon Christ to enable him to get the victory.

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13

Victory, or winning for the Christian, is a lot more than finding a prize in a box of cracker jacks. Victory is attaining the mastery over someone or some feeling as believers that we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean however, that we will not have to suffer, nor deal with failure, loss and ridicule. It does mean though that we can have peace and joy even if life's contest is overwhelming. Actually, our greatest win happens when we die to self and submit completely to the Lord. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ took a halftime break in the Garden of Gethsemane before completing the second half of His earthly ministry, and in His humanity He asked His Heavenly Father if there was another way; yet, He gave up His will so that His Father's would be done. The Bible tells us that Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him. Our joy, our victory is realized by obeying our Lord. This same Apostle Paul set the goal of his second half as finishing with joy, in spite of his afflictions and trials.

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy..." Acts 20:24A

Because of God's amazing grace to love us like He does, the Lord Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us, and the Holy Spirit's indwelling us, the prize before us must be fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Let's go out the second half of our life in 2019 with an all out commitment to trust and obey our Lord. Remember, success or winning is not a destination to be reached, it's a process, a journey to be taken. Success is knowing your purpose in life; sowing seeds that benefit others aid growing to your maximum potential. James Allen said "you will be as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration." Though it's easy to be saturated with complacency, may we be stirred with compassion for the kingdom of God and the people around us.

I wish each of you a happy new year! Real happiness is only found in Jesus. He is the prize to be pursued. May God help us all as we begin the new year to take time for a halftime break to assess the time we have left, to acknowledge our failure, to adjust our lives, to accelerate our efforts, and to appraise the goal.

Brother Randy

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