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One Crucial Play

Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

Fill the jars.

Be still.

Wake up.

Stretch out your hand.

Open your eyes.

Take up your mat.

Go and present yourself.

Neither do I condemn you.

Go and sin no more.

(No word at all. Just a touch from a bleeding woman.)

Let the children come.

Blessed are you in heaven.

Lazarus, come out!

Legion, be gone!

Come out on the water, Peter.

Follow Me.

Drink of me.

Believe in me.

Not my will but Yours be done.

It is finished.

Do you love me?

Wait for the Holy Spirit.

Go and make disciples.

I am with you always.

I once read that if you boil an NFL game down to only the seconds from when the ball is snapped to the moment each play ends, all you're left with is a total game time of around 11 minutes. 11 MINUTES! That seems shocking because a full televised NFL game lasts more than 3 hours. There are commercial breaks and penalties, huddles and challenges, more penalties, and a lot more commercial breaks. This is why many people don’t really have a problem with watching a game while they do something else just so long as they tune in for the plays. When DVR technology came out and it became possible to skip the commercials altogether, I was a happy user. These days I usually just watch the highlights after the game is over. However you choose to watch an NFL game, one fact is indisputable—when it comes to determining who wins and loses, only the plays on the field truly matter. Everything else is really just a distraction. But there’s another dynamic that passionate fans (of every sport) know and understand: most games hinge on one or two plays that change everything in terms of victory or defeat.

This dynamic came to mind recently when I was thinking about the life, ministry, and words of Jesus. It’s perplexing to consider that the Bible provides very few details about most of the years Jesus spent on earth. The majority of his life is still very much a mystery. We get a few glimpses of him as a baby, toddler, and then young boy, and then we’re fast-forwarded to his final three years of life. It’s as if God Himself wants us to focus on the really important plays.

During the life and times of Jesus, the world was a very busy place, full of the mundane and the crucial. No doubt just about everything going on for most people seemed (at first) way more important than the actions and words of a poor carpenter’s son from Nazareth. This was obviously what Nathaniel was thinking and feeling when he asked in John 1:46: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Well, something good did come. Something so good, powerful, and significant that it changed all of history and all of eternity for those paying close and careful attention to the words and actions of Jesus Christ.

Look again at the above sampling of simple but unbelievable words Jesus spoke during the three years of his public ministry. Read over them slowly. The words listed contain very few of His claims, parables, or promises. Instead, what’s highlighted are Jesus’ commands—action plays that instantly and eternally changed the lives of those Jesus spoke to. Lives that were often both physically and spiritually broken and defeated. Then one powerful sentence from Jesus. One crucial play and defeat turns to victory—death turns to life!

Jesus still calls the same decisive and powerful plays in the lives of individual people on the earth today. Be forgiven! Be released! Be healed! Be free! Be mine! And then the invitation to trust Him, follow Him, and get in the game.

When Jesus’ words penetrate through all the distractions and mess of our lives, and when the soil of our hearts is prepared and ready—our souls respond to His commands and come alive. This experience is often no less intense and real for new believers today than it was for those who stood in Jesus’ physical presence and heard the authority in his voice, gazed into his penetrating eyes, and basked in the intensity of his presence and the glow of his smile.

Jesus is alive in each and every one of his followers and we are called to live out our days on earth, moment by moment, for His purposes and plans. May we not be distracted by the desires and temptations of this world. Or even by the allure of comfort and the mundane. May we stay focused on the game—on the battle—in which we are engaged and let Jesus call the important plays that change us and change others for His glory!

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1

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