The spiritual red zone
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I’ve never watched so much football in my life! 

Last weekend my husband, Jim, and I decided to have a football weekend. We love the game of football and had a great time watching teams play at their highest levels because the entire season was on the line. 

Sadly, we gave up on the Saturday night game too soon! 

We had church in the morning and decided Trevor Lawrence was just having a bad night. He was down 27–0 at halftime and we just went to bed. When we woke up the next morning, we heard the reporters talking about the third-greatest comeback in playoff history! 

Trevor had played an almost-perfect second half and led his team to a 31–30 victory. The next morning, he got a standing ovation when he went to the Waffle House for breakfast! He is a good guy, and I’m glad his team is still in the running.

Jim was preaching Sunday morning and used an illustration that prompted the title for this blog post. Most of us who attend our chapel service are somewhere around our age. Jim used a PowerPoint slide with a picture of a football field and told us to judge our age as progress down the field. 

Most of us had passed the twenty-yard line and realized we are headed for the end zone! 

After church, I made a joke and said, “So, what you are saying is that you and I are in the Red Zone.” 

What is the spiritual red zone?

For those who might not watch football, the red zone is considered the part of the field between the twenty-yard line and the goal line. It is the part of the field where games are won or lost. 

It occurred to me that, in many ways, this season of my life is like the spiritual red zone. 

I want to win this game, don’t you? 

One of the games we watched was the Giants/Vikings game. The Giants won largely because of their talented quarterback and another player named Saquon Barkley. One of the best moments of that game occurred in the red zone. 

The Giants were lined up with only a couple of yards to go, the ball was snapped and handed off to Saquon, who literally ran hard, shoved, and carried a bunch of huge defenders into the end zone, scoring the TD. Jim told me Barkley is one of the strongest players in the NFL. I believe it! 

So, what should life in the spiritual red zone look like? 

The answer: a LOT like that Saquon Barkley goal-line play! 

His touchdown effort had help from a strong team, but, truthfully, it was his enormous strength that helped him cross the goal line with success.  

The purpose of life is to cross our goal line successfully. Death is guaranteed at the end of our lives. Salvation has been guaranteed at the end of our lives as well if we are Christians. John 5:24 is a promise from Christ. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  

Some touchdowns this weekend were achieved more easily as the player caught a pass and ran over the goal line. Others, like Saquon’s TD, were a battle won with great strength. There is no way to know which of those scenarios will mark the finish of our lives. 

But, we are called to be strong and ready to cross the goal line, no matter what play the Lord calls. Philippians 4:13 reminds us that we “can do all things through him who strengthens” us.  

We have been given everything we need to compete in a spiritual Super Bowl if we will just play the game plan the Holy Spirit has laid out.  

Most of us are in the playoff season of our lives. Are we playing at the top of our game? 

Which team should we be playing for?

I’m a Cowboys fan, often reluctantly. Thankfully, Monday night they played a great game and they are still in the race! The team has a LOT of ability, but sometimes they don’t seem to have the heart or motivation to play their best game. 

Sadly, that describes a lot of Christians too. 

Those who know Scripture know they are guaranteed a win simply because of their salvation. 

But shouldn’t it matter how we play the game too? 

Romans 12:2 gives good advice for this game we call life. Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  

God has a game plan, a will for each of our lives. Success is playing on God’s team and following his plan instead of thinking our own plans will provide a better way to win. 

Are you in the spiritual red zone?

That question isn’t meant to be a sobering thought about your age! Instead, it should be a rewarding thought that says, “I’m in the game.” 

Consider it this way: If you are a Christian, you are going to win the game, and there is going to be a GREAT celebration after the clock runs out. There is going to be a trophy handed out as well. 

It is ALL good! 

But, keep in mind that there will be “stats” to consider at the end of the game. The team wins, but only some will have played in the game. The team gets a trophy, but some get an MVP award. I guess what I am saying to all of us today is that we should want to get off the bench and play in the game! 

Yes, you will probably take some hits on the field. Yes, you might drop a few passes or trip along the way. ALL good players have stats that include both successes and failures. But, that’s because they were in the game! 

My thought today is that all of us should take a moment to consider our personal stats. Our team is in the red zone, but are you on the field or cheering from the sideline? 

How do you get into the game?

Paul gives that answer in Philippians 4:8–9: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” 

The players who are able to play the game are the players who showed up for practice and participated in the workout so they could accomplish what they learned. 

If you have been sidelined, get back to playing the game. It’s a lot more fun to celebrate in the end zone after the battle than to just be included in the locker-room celebration at the end of the game. Christians are on the winning team, but why not shoot for one of those MVP awards at the end of the game?  

There are two more football weekends and then the Super Bowl. I’m hoping to root for the Cowboys but expect that I’ll be rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs on Super Bowl Sunday. 

In the end, winning is mostly about character and strength. We will see who has that in the red zone,  and we will see who goes to the Super Bowl this year. 

Finally . . .

Statistically, I’m in the red zone of life. Where are you?  

Spiritually, I’d like to be on the field and ready to run a game-winning play!  

Are you in the game? 

If so, stay strong because you will take some hits. 

If not, get back to the practices of your faith and you will soon be called off the bench and onto the field! 

The Holy Spirit has an affinity for those who are strong and ready to follow God’s game plan. 

Let’s all play in such a way that we are an important part of the win!