It was a frosty November night in Foxboro, Massachusetts. In a hotly contested, 2008 AFC east matchup, the Patriots played the Jets to a 31-31 tie resulting in their first and only overtime game of that season.
NFL overtime is unlike any in sports. Instead of playing an extra quarter or half to determine a winner, NFL teams enter sudden death. Back then sudden death was pretty straightforward. The referee flipped a coin to decide who would receive the ball first. Once play resumed, the first team to score won. If team A got the ball and scored, the game was over. Team B would not get to possess the ball. Obviously, if you are team B, you hoped your defense stopped team A and you got a chance to score. In our case, unfortunately, we were team B, the Jets were team A, and in quintessential fashion, they won the toss, drove down the field, kicked a field goal and won the game 34-31. We never got a chance to go on offense. In the blink of an eye the game was over. No more running. No more catching. No more tackling. No more beer. No more popcorn. No more cheering. No more jeering. You could have heard a mouse peeing on cotton it was so quiet in Gillette Stadium!
This is the suddenness of sudden death. When overtime starts no one ever knows what to expect. Each decision, each play, each drive is of utmost importance because it may be your last. Throughout the history of the NFL, overtime results have run the gamut. The longest overtime, an AFC divisional game in 1971, lasted two extra quarters while the shortest was an eleven second touchdown pass play in 2012. When a game goes into overtime there is an overwhelming sense of urgency. This is it! There are no more chances. There is no time for mistakes. Every play matters!
I once heard a story about Satan talking to his demons. One particular demon wanted to come to earth and tell people there was no God. Satan responded that that wouldn’t work because in their souls, people inherently know they are created. Then he said, “Well I’ll make them think heaven and hell do not exist.” Satan replied that God has set eternity in the hearts of men and they know there is something after physical death. Finally the demon exclaimed, “I’ve got it! I’ll make them believe there is no hurry. I’ll make them believe they have plenty of time before death or the rapture takes place.” To that Satan said “Well done, my son, you are on your way.” Now I’m not saying this story is one hundred percent accurate, but it makes a great point. Satan’s not stupid. He knows the truth but wants to preoccupy us with lies, confusion, and apathy long enough for our souls to perish. Friends, we are living in a SUDDEN DEATH situation but many of us don’t even know it. And many of us who do know it aren’t acting like it.
Sudden death in a football game brings out the best in every player, coach, and fan. No one is tired or bored. No one is thinking about his pain or lack of experience. Everyone is going all out for the win! We cannot, as Christians, be nonchalant about the importance of reaching our lost brethren for Christ. We must always remember that we may not have as much time left as we think and realize the final buzzer can go off at any time. Game over!
In 1984, Grammy Award winning gospel quartet, The Winans, released a song entitled Tomorrow. Here’s an excerpt:
“Here I stand, won’t you please let me in?”
And you said
“I will tomorrow”
“I am he who supplies all your needs”
And you said
“I know, but tomorrow, ooh, tomorrow, ill give my life tomorrow,
I thought about today, but it’s so much easier to say”
Tomorrow, who promised you tomorrow?
Better choose the Lord today,
for tomorrow very well might be too late.
Tomorrow may be too late for two reasons: Christ’s return to earth or our departure from it. Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour of His return but that we should always be ready (Matthew 24:36). Like a thief in the night, the Son of man will return when we least expect Him. Jesus issues this warning to the believer and unbeliever alike. Unbelievers, today is the day of salvation. Believers, we must continue the work he has given us. What is this work? Being faithful stewards of our treasure and talents, and being his reconciliatory representatives on earth, as we continue to grow in our walk with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The master is going to return, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be caught sleeping on the job!
Hebrews 9:27 drives the point home even further. “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of the world and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” We should be living with the urgency and fervor of sudden death football because our clocks are ticking and the next second is not promised. The question is not IF, but WHEN we will see His face and face judgment. The answer could be sooner than you think. We’ve all thought about our own mortality at some point or another. In our human experience, death usually comes suddenly. Even if it’s expected, it always seems to happen too soon.
What are you putting off for tomorrow that God wants you to do today? The Spirit prompts us all in different ways. If that means making a phone call, make it. If that means having a sensitive conversation with a coworker or family member, have it. If that means, pouring out your heart to God and asking for your eternal security, pour it. If it means going somewhere uncomfortable, go there! If it means ending a relationship with someone or something that is pulling you down, end it! At times, it’s easy to think that we will always have more time to “get right” but tomorrow is not promised. The sand is racing through the hourglass of life. Whether we realize it or not we are living in SUDDEN DEATH. Don’t be deceived. We are in the overtime of our lives and much like that 2008 football game, none of us are guaranteed another chance to score.