I have spent a great deal of my time this weekend watching the NFL playoff games, as I am sure many of you have. Though you may not be a fan of the sport, there are many lessons that can be learned from the game. Football is in many ways a microcosm of life. In football, even the best players often make mistakes, and fumbles happen. It is not only true on the football field, but it happens in the Christian life as well. My observation is that Christians fall into two groups: those willing to run the risk of fumbling for the sake of victory, and those who sit on the bench preferring to play it safe. There are the "risk-takers," who sometimes fumble the ball, and there are the "careful failures," who are afraid of fumbling and never get into the game. You will never see the second group in heaven’s "highlights film."
Acts 15:26 speaks of Paul and Barnabas as "men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Some scholars say that this word translated as "risked" [Greek word – paradidomi] could be translated as "gambled."
The heroes of the faith often fumbled the ball, but they all went on to finish the game and all advanced the Kingdom of God. They were willing to take the risk. (I remember hearing John Wimber say, "faith is spelled R-I-S-K.") I believe that God can do much more with a man who runs with the ball, knowing he may fumble, than the man who watches from the sidelines. I believe that it is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried. Peter may have begun to sink as he walked to Jesus on the water, but he at least had the courage to get out of the boat.
Abraham left the Ur of the Chaldees in obedience to God, "not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11:8). Yes, Abraham fumbled the ball a few times, but he is still the "father of the faith" (Rom. 4:16). Moses went back to face Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of bondage. He too fumbled and did not make it to the Promised Land with his generation, but he did ultimately get there (Matt. 17:1-3). David fumbled badly, but he was still called "a man after God’s own heart." Peter denied the Lord, fumbling the ball, but he still scored on the day of Pentecost. The Bible does not hide from us their failures rather it "replays" their fumbles for us to see. We see the weaknesses of God’s best players. God has no "flawless saints" to run the ball for Him, He only has fallen men and women whom He uses to advance the ball toward the goal line.
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and pass judgment on those who fumble the ball. There are always the proverbial "Monday morning quarterbacks" who know what plays should have been called. Theodore Roosevelt spoke these words of inspiration to those of us that have run the ball, fumbled, and heard the voice of the critic:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
So the next you fumble the ball (and you will) don’t quit. Don’t be afraid to pick it up and run again. Don’t head for the sidelines. Don’t forget that fumbles happen. And don’t forget that the game isn’t over. The Bible says, "Though the righteous man falls seven times, he will rise and go again" (Prov. 24:16).
Even though the enemy doesn’t want you to believe it, Jesus has already scored the winning touchdown. Not only that, but the day will come when He will reveal how in His wise strategic plan for winning, all of our fumbles were taken into account. First Corinthians 15:57 declares, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."