As we approach the final two weeks of the NFL regular season, the focus is on the teams that are setting themselves up for a Super Bowl run—and rightly so. The Patriots, Falcons, Eagles and others have had terrific seasons and they all want to cap off the campaign by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Dallas. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is something that ought not be missed. While some teams seem to have mailed it in during these final games, there are teams that continue to play hard—even though they seem to have little to play for. Every week, the Browns, Lions, and Bills are outmanned and outgunned by opponents that are more talented and have more at stake. But every week these three teams continue to give a top effort and play hard. It is commendable for a variety of reasons, but it is also encouraging to the fans of these teams that there may be better days ahead if their teams are willing to give maximum effort even when they lose. There is something refreshing about teams playing hard when, arguably, their seasons are as good as over. In life, there are also times when we feel that there is nothing left—no hope or purpose to give significance to the long days of seemingly continual defeat. Sometimes those moments are marked by a job loss, or a failed marriage, or a health crisis. It would be easy to mail it in and give up. For the follower of Christ, however, we are called to more. Paul wrote to a struggling congregation and said this:

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

It can often feel pointless to try and carry on in the dark days of life when all seems lost, but for the believer we can take heart. In the game of life, we have a cherished Friend who goes with us and helps us. Our responsibility is to play hard and give our best all the way to the end, knowing that we can leave the outcomes to our wise heavenly Father. He can be trusted with what comes next. Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain