Sports are a significant part of our lives. We love to pull for our favorite teams and players. We take pride in our favorites as we wear their apparel and tell people about our allegiances.
Sometimes our allegiances can be divisive. My father-in-law was a Baptist pastor. He was being considered by a church in South Carolina to become their next pastor. The search committee asked many questions, but he remembered one question more than the rest. They wanted to know, “Are you a Gamecock or a Tiger?” He confused them by saying, “I’m a Gator.” Apparently, the University of Florida graduate was considered a safe choice as they called him to become their new pastor.
When our favorites win, we feel like winners. When they lose, we feel rejected. That’s one reason why the last-second shot by the Villanova player against UNC for the national championship hurt so badly. Up until that shot, we felt like the Tar Heels were bound to win. But we found out the game isn’t over until the buzzer sounds.
We watched a young Texan recently on the verge of winning his second green jacket at the Masters. The 12th hole on the last day of play proved to be too much for him and all of his fans. We grieved as he sank two golf balls into the water. The famed golf hole is known as “Amen Corner.” No one shouted “Amen” when he eventually scored a seven on a par 3. Later, we felt for him as he placed this year’s green jacket on the eventual winner.
What can we glean from these sad endings to these great moments in sports?
They remind us that we should never assume how something will end, even if we have a lead. The game’s not over until the buzzer sounds or the last putt is taken.
We need to hear this message as persons of faith. We, too, can get caught up in our moments of ministry. Like a team or player who believes they are about to achieve a great win, we must recognize our work for the Kingdom of God is never complete. There is no buzzer that sounds indicating that our work for God is complete.
Instead, we are weighted with the knowledge that ministry is never finished. One pastor referred to it as the “unfinishness of ministry.” He acknowledged that he never felt like he had visited everyone who needed to be visited. He never felt like he had read every book he should have for Sunday’s sermon. He never felt like he ever heard a buzzer sounding indicating it was “quittin’ time.” On another occasion he said, “I like to cut my grass. It’s the only thing I do that lets me know when I’ve finished.”
Remember what Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica: “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”
Doing the right thing is not about winning or losing. Doing right is the real mark of a winner as a child of God. It’s the only thing we can do that will allow us to rest in peace.
The Rev. Wayne Wike is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Laurinburg. Reach him at [email protected]