Over the next several weeks,high schools and colleges will embark on another football season. Each team will have invested time in strength training, developed offensive and defensive strategies and assembled special teams.
Successful teams practice hard and play with precision. They do this in hopes of bringing home a championship.
A mark of success in a football team is the ability to change the game plan as needed at halftime. In the locker room, the coaches look at what went wrong, what went right, and then adjust their game plan in order to put them in the best possible position to play a winning second half.
In life, most of us start out with a pretty basic game plan: land a good position in a company, learn and grow and be further ahead each year. This cycle continues to increase rapidly through our 20s and 30s. But as the minutes of the first half of life wind down, one realizes that the entire game cannot be played this way. Something has to change. Therefore, you go into halftime with the desire to change your game plan because you know that games are won or lost in the second half.
A couple of weeks ago, I entered halftime. I officially turned 40. As you complete the fourth decade of your life, you begin to think a lot about who you are and where you are going.
You become more reflective in midlife. You start pondering the "big" questions like: What is life? Why am I here? How much Healthy Choice ice cream can I eat before it's no longer a "healthy choice"?
As I reflected on the first half of my life, I realized that I have had my share of successes and failures. From these experiences, I've developed a second-half strategy that will keep me focused until the final buzzer sounds.
I believe that God wants us to finish the race strong. He wants the rest of your life to be the best of your life. How can this happen? Here's how:
Develop the ability to look beyond the majority. There is a tendency in life to follow the crowd. If you are going to finish the game strong, you must rise above the crowd. You need to have a vision that will take you to the next level.
Believe God in spite of the circumstances. This is a call to faith. To finish the game strong you need God's power in your life. This comes through prayer. The Scriptures teach us to call on him and he will answer and tell us great and unsearchable things that we do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).
Learn from the past, but don't live in it. People often say that experience is a great teacher. There comes a time when we must move on with a great determination to finish strong.
Learn to enjoy life. At times, I have to remind myself to "lighten up." I have a tendency to be too serious too much of the time. God wants us to enjoy him and the life he has given us. I realize that every experience in life does not produce happiness, but I have found an inner joy in Jesus Christ that has given me the confidence that everything will work out for the good.
For me, it's halftime and I've decided that I'm not ready to throw in the towel, but I want to finish the game strong. I want to join with Paul and say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Dr. Marty Baker is pastor of Stevens Creek Community Church in Evans.