盡力到最後一局

最近當我在週末假期看電視上的運動節目時,我注意到一件事:你必須打完整場球賽,不論那意味著橄欖球和NBA籃球的4局;大學籃球和足球的兩個半場;冰上曲棍球的3局;職業棒球的9局(或更多局);或是高爾夫球的18洞。若比賽一開始就大幅領先當然很好,但你還是必須要打完整場比賽。

更常見的是,運動競賽的最後部份非常重要。我最近看一場兩隊競爭得非常激烈的比賽,結果就是在最後僅存的兩秒鐘,其中一隊得到決定性的一分。這一隊在幾乎確定被打敗時搶回勝利。顯然即使是比賽的最後兩秒也極端重要。

我現在已六十多歲,你怎麼看都會說我現在已進入生命的最後一局--當然是我有生產力歲月的最後一局。任何超過八十年的東西都可以算是「超時」。在61歲我就開始進入我生命的最後一局。然而像橄欖球賽,因為已有相當程度的領先,就把時間拖完或採取拖延戰術,對我而言並不實際,也沒有運動精神。

許多與我同齡的人已經看著時鐘,認為自己能打到終場。也就是說,他們尚未放棄,也不認為自己不會再上場而去洗澡沖凉。奇妙的是,我覺得自己的狀態還是與以前一樣,不覺得疲倦,反而覺得更有創造力,而且比以前了解得更多。現在可能很合適去修改我個人的「比賽計畫」,做更好的選擇,或以一種勝負還未定的態度來繼續努力,但我應該把時間拖完嗎?我不認為如此。

在聖經新約中,使徒保羅說生命就像賽跑。他強調跑到終點的重要性。在哥林多前書9章24節他寫道:「豈不知在場上賽跑的都跑,但得獎賞的只有一人﹖你們也當這樣跑,好叫你們得著獎賞」。

我們似乎有一種觀念,以為我們可以不再努力生活,像開車一樣,用空檔滑行至終點。這是一個相當新的觀念,是從19世紀開始的。

德國是第一個在1880年開始有退休的觀念。現在工業化國家的許多人認為退休是一個基本權利。在某個歲數之後,一個人可以決定是否要繼續工作。然而,只要我們能力所及,我們應該繼續服事主,且服事別人。

在腓立比書3章14節保羅說:「向著標竿直跑,要得神在基督耶穌裡從上面召我來得的獎賞」。保羅了解在他生命的那個時刻,比賽尚未結束,所以他決定繼續努力跑,直到比賽(他在地上的生命)結束。

至於我,我要努力直到最後的槍響、口哨聲、鳴笛、加百列的號角吹響,或任何表示比賽結束的訊號聲響起。畢竟我們對我們的教練、球隊和我們自己還有虧欠。換句話說,也就是我們對我們的家庭、朋友、僱主、同事和其他倚靠我們的人還有虧欠。這就是我們為什麼被放在這裡,要盡力到比賽結束。

思想 / 討論題目
若你對運動有興趣,可否想到最近看過的一次比賽中其中一隊從開始就一直領先,但最後對手卻反敗為勝?比賽的最後部份對結果有多重要? 把「最後一局」或「下半場」的比喻用在你的工作場所中,想想是否有一次剛開始每件事都很順利,但最後結果卻不好?或者有一次你或你的公司剛開始情況並不好,但後來做了一些重大改變,就挽救了那狀況?什麼造成這樣的改變? 看看你自己的生命,你是否像本文作者一樣,進入「最後一局」,或生命的下半場?不論你已在工作中做得不錯,或才剛開始,你要採取什麼步驟以保證自己最後的結果會很好,能留在「比賽場中」直到最後? 一個人的屬靈信仰--對上帝的信心--會對生命中的進展帶來什麼改變?你是否同意我們有義務努力工作直到我們有生產力的生命結束?或者我們應該退休去過悠閒的生活方式,享受我們多年努力的成果?請解釋。若你想看看或討論聖經中有關此議題的其他經文,請翻閱以下經節:
民數記8章23-26節;路加福音14章28-33節,19章11-26節;約翰福音17章4節,19章30節;提摩太後書4章7節

PLAYING IT BY THE FOURTH QUARTER

By: Jim Mathis

While watching a sporting event on television over a recent holiday weekend, one thing became obvious to me: You have to play the entire game, whether that means four quarters, as in American football and NBA basketball; two halves, as in college basketball and soccer; three periods, as in ice hockey; nine innings (or more), as in professional baseball; or 18 holes, as in golf. It is good to build a commanding lead in the earlier portions of the game, but you still have to play the whole game.

More often than not, the closing portions of an athletic competition are crucial. In the case of a game I observed recently between two bitter rivals, the outcome came down to a decisive score with only two seconds remaining on the clock. As one team snatched victory from near-certain defeat, it became very evident that even the last two seconds of a contest can be extremely important.

I have now entered my 60s. Any way you look at it, you could very accurately say that I am in the fourth quarter of my life – certainly the fourth quarter of my productive years. Anything beyond 80 years would probably qualify as “overtime.” At 61, I am definitely starting my fourth quarter. However, simply running out the clock or taking a knee, as sometimes happens in American football, does not seem practical or sportsmanlike at this stage of my life, even if I had what I would consider a good “lead” going.

Many people my age already are eyeing the clock, reasoning they can coast to the finish. That is, if they haven”t already given up or headed for the showers. The curious thing is that I feel as good as ever. I am not tired, I feel more creative, and know a lot more than I once did. It may be appropriate to revise my personal “game plan,” make better choices, or play as if the outcome of the game is still on the line, but should I just run out the clock? I don”t think so.

In the New Testament of the Bible, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of life being similar to running a race. He emphasizes the importance of running all the way to the end. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he writes, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

We seem to have gotten the idea that, like driving a car, at some point we can take our lives out of gear, coast to the finish line in neutral, and still win the race. This is a relative new idea dating back only to the 19th and 20th centuries.

Germany was the first country to introduce the idea of retirement in 1880. Now, many (if not most) people in industrialized nations consider retirement a basic right. Whether a person continues working in their career or not after a certain age should be a personal decision. We should, however, endeavor to serve the Lord – and to serve others – in some productive capacity as long as we are able.

In Philippians 3:14, Paul says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul understood at that point in his life the race was not over, so he was determined to press on until the “game” – his life on earth – was finished.

As for me, I intend to play hard until the final gun, whistle, buzzer, Gabriel”s trumpet, or whatever it is that signals the end. After all, we owe that to the coach, our team, and ourselves. In other terms, our family, friends, employers, coworkers, and others that rely on us. That is why we were put here: to play the game until the end.

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and recently has opened a school of photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions 1. If you are interested in sports, can you think of a recent contest when one team seemed in control early on, only to lose when the opponent made a late surge? How important was the latter portion of the contest to the final outcome? Applying the “fourth quarter” or “second half” analogy to your workplace setting, think of a time when everything seemed to start very well but finished poorly? Or a time when you or your company may have gotten off to a poor start, but were able to make some significant changes to salvage the situation. What made the difference? Looking at your own life, are you – like Jim Mathis – in the “fourth quarter,” or even second half of your life? Whether you are well into your career, or just getting started, what steps are you making to ensure that you finish well, that you stay “in the game” until the very end? How should a person”s spiritual beliefs – faith in God – make a difference in progressing through life? Do you agree with the contention that we have an obligation to work and play hard until we reach the end of our productive life? Or should we be entitled to retiring to a leisurely lifestyle, enjoying the fruits of many years of labor? Explain your answer.

If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages:
Numbers 8:23-26; Luke 14:28-33, 19:11-26; John 17:4, 19:30; 2 Timothy 4:7

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