Summary: The fifth message in the 2010 Lenten series
(Slide 1) On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. A UC player named Roy Riegels, who was their center, recovered a fumble for California and in the confusion of evading some of the Georgia Tech tacklers, started running sixty-five yards… in the wrong direction. Just before Riegels was about to score for Georgia Tech one of his own teammates tackled him landing on the one yard line.
As half-time came to an end everyone but Riegels got up to leave the locker room. He didn’t budge. Reportedly he said to his coach, “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined myself, I’ve ruined the University of California. I couldn’t face that crowd to save my life.” To which the coach replied, "Roy, get up and go back out there — the game is only half over."
(Sources: Dr. Reed Lessing. © 2010 by Creative Communications for the Parish. creativecommunications.com; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Riegels)
If you were the coach of that team, what would you have done? Benched him for poor play or to collect himself? Or would you have kept him in the game reminding him that the game was only half over?
If you have been Riegels, what would you have done? Decided to stay in the locker room and give up? Reject the coach’s words as mere platitudes? Or would you believe him and get up and go play the second half? (Which he did with distinction losing to Tech 8 to 7.)
Riegels went on to serve our nation during World War 2 in the Army Air Corp, owned his own company, coached football at the High School level and also coached Cal at one point. He died in 1993 at the age of 84.
Would he have accomplished any of these things if he would have given up that day?
One of the greatest challenges to faith is the feeling that with one mistake we are no longer useful to or cared for by God.
That is not true.
“Now pastor,” you may want to argue this morning, “this is true. There are pastors who no longer pastor because they had an affair or had money problems or just were not called to the ministry. And pastor there are people I know because of divorce or law breaking who are not in church any more.”
Okay, you have a point. But has God really given up on them? No he has not. God still loves them deeply and still has a place for them to serve Him though it may not be in the same place or position as it once was. And sometimes, sometimes it is.
I remind us this morning that the game is only half over! Christ has not yet returned, the final judgment has yet to take place. And until it does, those who have failed are not fully disqualified!
We learn this in our main text for this morning, Jonah 3:1-4
“Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message of judgment I have given you.”
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” (NLT)