It’s the fourth quarter. The game is tied. You are out of timeouts. It’s fourth and goal on your opponent’s 12-yard line. This is the time when you have to perform. The game is on the line and this one play will likely determine the outcome of the game. For some quarterbacks, this is the worst possible moment in a game, because they are under extraordinary pressure to perform with a lot at stake. Other signal callers, however, seem to thrive on it. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning—you can almost see them licking their lips in anticipation of this game-changing opportunity.
That is what fourth and goal is all about. But how an athlete performs under that kind of pressure will likely be determined by two things: Your attitude and your preparation. It is also significant to note that the one impacts the other. The reason the great quarterbacks are not flustered by fourth and goal is because they have trained, prepared, and worked for that exact opportunity—and they know they can get it done. They may not get it done in every case, but they know they can.
When under pressure to perform, we too can find ourselves shrouded with doubt and uncertainty if we haven’t properly prepared for that moment. While Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a heartbroken father brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples. But, in that moment of pressure, they failed to rescue the boy. When Jesus arrived, the father lamented the boy’s condition, saying:
“Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He [Jesus] answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me” (Mark 9:18-19).
Interestingly, Jesus had equipped His men for just this kind of opportunity, but they failed anyway. Why? They would ask that question themselves after Jesus had succeeded where they had failed.
When He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer” (9:28-29).
Ah, there’s the rub. In the moment of pressure, they were not prepared. Why? They had not prayed (a tragedy that would be repeated the night before the cross). For us, the challenge is similar. We might not be confronted by a person who is a demoniac, but we face ongoing situations that are packed with pressure. The question is not whether or not we will face such situations. The question is whether or not we will be ready when they come. That is why the value of prayer is so much more than just asking and receiving—it is our communal connection to our Father, who is our strength, our help, our King. Only as we cultivate that relationship through prayer can we hope to be truly ready when the pressure mounts and we must act. We act in Him.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain