Although my life included a husband and four sons who were keen on watching football on TV, that has never been my cup of tea.
While the men in my family were shouting instructions and complaints at the players and referees, I took the opportunity to be elsewhere doing my own thing. That is, after satisfying male appetites with hearty but not necessarily healthy snacks and drinks.
I returned to the family room at intervals to refill their survival food supplies and ask what the score was—as if I cared. Sorry, I usually didn't even know what teams were playing. If the enthusiasm was at an unusually high pitch, I guessed that it might be the final quarter. Without really knowing what was happening on the field, sometimes I actually stayed to follow the action, especially if the score was close.
Unexpected things can happen even at the last minute. The ball might be fumbled, a foul declared, a penalty called, an injury caused a time out and the final score could be reversed. The length of the final quarter is anyone's guess. The game might go into overtime.
Anything is possible in the final quarter—of a football game and also of a person's life.
It reminded me of my own final quarter of life when so many major events have been occurring in my personal life, my faith walk, my career, family relationships and ministry, health issues. Surprising events, sad and joyful, and almost unbelievable ones.
The truth is, no one ever knows when he or she is in the final quarter of life. When I was born, the normal life expectancy was about 63. A century before it was much less. Some of my grandparents died in their late thirties and early forties. My father died at 59. For them, their final quarter came incredibly early in life, while they were still young. They were not even aware how close to the end of life's game they were.
I'm in my 93rd year and can more easily calculate approximately when my final quarter of life began. But I only know that in hindsight. There is no way to know in advance whether one might already be in overtime. No one is guaranteed a lengthy final quarter. Anything can happen at the last minute to change the trajectory of one's life and how it would end.
Many Christian leaders and ordinary Christians whom the Lord greatly used and blessed with longevity remained faithful through their final quarter. Notables like Rev. Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II are to be lauded and applauded for staying the course. Their spiritual fruit and reputation remains. Others stumbled and fell toward the end of their lives and in some way disgraced themselves and forfeited their reputation in their final quarter. They didn't persevere in righteousness or endure through trials and sufferings—on the flip side, some couldn't handle their material prosperity and life of ease.
King David was taking some early retirement time from his military leadership post when he fell into temptation. In contrast to the aged apostle Paul who declared about his final quarter that he had “finished his course and kept the faith.” It isn't possible for any of us who have known and served the Lord to simply cruise without continued vigilance through the final quarter and simply coast to the finish. We dare not drop our guard. Watchfulness is for a lifetime, all four quarters of life's game.
I went online to search for the life stories of some prominent Christian leaders of the past and current century whose successful ministries I admired. I was disheartened to read the final quarter report about some of them. Is any of us so blameless that we can cast the first stone?
“Be of sober spirit, on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil has tailor-made temptations to entrap us in our final quarter. God promised that He has a special crown reserved for faithfulness and perseverance. If we don't watch and pray, we will find our reward subsequently diminished in Eternity. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).
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