A few years ago I started noticing a trend in football and other sports that have 4 quarters. At the end of the third the teams and spectators would all start holding up their hands with the number 4 showing. Coming from a certain sports team I thought it was a bear claw or tiger paw or something. I asked around, with my hand up of course showing the “4”, what it meant. Some of the parents of the players told me it was a reminder that the game does not end after the third quarter. If you want to win you have to play all 4 quarters.
You have to play the whole game. The team cannot just sit down and wait for the clock to tick off the final time. The opposition would run wild and win the game no matter what kind of lead you had. After 3 quarters your lungs ache, your body hurts and your muscles cramp. There is no quit, though. We cannot stop after 3. We play until the end of 4. As Mike Golic put it one morning, “There is a difference between injury and pain. You play through the pain.” Wouldn’t it look silly for the 4th quarter to start and your team not be on the field? Coaches would be fired. Players would get berated and possibly booed. Cheerleaders would have nothing to do. What cheer do you pull out for that? Maybe the fans would start holding up fabricated benches instead of fences to promote D-bench instead of D-fence. How odd would that be? How different is it for people to quit parenting, quit serving God, quit trying to be better?
You have to train for the 4th Quarter. The off-season is critical for the regular season. If at the first sign of pain or breathlessness we quit we will get nowhere. If I am going to train, I must train through the pain. The reality of strength training and conditioning is that during the training you will actually tear the muscle apart. Through food and recovery the body adds muscles in gap. You train, tear, feed, recover, repeat. Over and over you do this so your body is prepared for the 4th quarter in the regular season. Champions never take time off. They have changed the term off-season to training season. Parenting doesn’t stop after they turn 18. Marriage doesn’t stop because it gets hard. Serving God doesn’t end because someone hurt your feelings. Train and play through the pain.
Play for the Prize. When your boss yells at you, mentally raise your hand and show 4 fingers rather than the one some of you do! When your friends talk bad about you, raise your hand. When someone hurts your feelings, focus on the 4th quarter. When God allows something that is different from what you wanted/demanded from Him, keep going. When your body hurts and you have lost a few steps, the game isn’t done. The prize isn’t handed out to those who start and quit. The prize isn’t handed out to those who try hard but fail to complete, or intended to finish. The prize is given to those who finish. The game may look bad at halftime (mid-life crisis), but every good coach will tell you to focus on the game plan and go win the game in the 4th.
Live on. Serve strong. It’s not over yet. Champions play all 4 quarters.
1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.