The game of life
You cannot afford to lose.
Back in May, I wrote a post and briefly mentioned a dream of mine. I do not remember dreams very often, so this was unusual. Whether the dream came from my subconscious mind or some spiritual influence, I do not know. But this dream seemed to be a message I needed to think about. The dream came to mind again recently.
In the dream, I was a professional football player for the Green Bay Packers.1 In uniform, I was sent into the game to play tight end. When I arrived in the huddle the quarterback called the play. I then had the horrifying realization that I did not know what I was supposed to do. I did not know the playbook! I woke up. The first thing I heard in my spirit when I woke up was, “you are not studying the playbook because you do not believe you will be put in the game.”
What did this mean? Was there some area of discouragement in my life where I had given up and stopped pursuing it? Was I neglecting prayer and study thinking that I would not be used for the Kingdom? Certainly important issues to pray about.
Advent started last week. It is supposed to be a “mini Lent” — somewhat penitential. Four weeks of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. At the gym, even our coach is reminding us that during these next few weeks we have an opportunity to change bad habits and, if we do not, we will be sitting here next year doing the same things.
With all of this in mind, I have noticed a shift in the spirit already in Advent. There is a more urgent call to prayer in my spirit. A grace is working to help me change bad habits in the evenings that interfere with quality prayer time. A desire to give more to God. Advent is the beginning of a new year in the Church and time to step up and implement change.
I was discussing these issues with my spiritual mentor and mentioned the dream. His response was, “Have it in your mind that we are in the life game and we cannot afford to lose. We must win it in Jesus’ Name.” His response brought to mind the words of St. Paul: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”2
The Gospel reading for the traditional Mass for the First Sunday of Advent references the end of the world and the Second Coming of Jesus. The Church, in her wisdom, always begins the new year by reminding us that the end of the world is closer and that we must prepare.
This is the game of life, the race we are running—our salvation and eternal life. We cannot afford to lose.
The Coming of the Son of Man
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”3
Unfortunately, running analogies do not work for me. I was an aquatic athlete—a swimmer. But the principle is the same! Our coach in college reinforced every season the need to finish hard to the wall. We would practice finishing hard to the wall until it was second nature. Years later, I watched Michael Phelps win a race at the Olympics by one hundreth of a second by finishing hard to the wall.4
This is a principle that I have tried to apply in my life outside of swimming—to finish strong, to not quit. It is not hard to see ways to apply this principle to the spiritual life. Using the running analogy again, St. Paul also exhorts us to run the race with perseverance—to not quit.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.5
For me personally, I have started to realize that the game indeed is life. I should not be sitting around waiting for something to happen. I am already “in the game.” All I have to work with is today. With God’s grace, may I make the best of it.
God called our name and put us in the game—the life game. Through prayer and study we come to learn the “playbook” — how to live a godly life as a Christian. The game is not over until we die. While we still have breath in our lungs, we can still make progress towards the finish line. Where there is life, there is hope. We can look to Jesus to help us if we have fallen.
You are already in the game. Are you working on learning the playbook? Do you spend time each day in prayer? Will you be ready when the Son of Man appears?
I pray that all of us take advantage of this Advent to draw closer to God in prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Eric A. Welter is an employment lawyer and trial attorney with a long-time devotion to intercessory prayer. He is a Catholic Christian who has been involved with intercessory and healing prayer ministry for over twenty years. The Abound in Hope Ministry website is https://www.aboundinhope.org/ministry.
Abound in Hope is a free publication. Paid subscriptions support the work of Abound in Hope Ministry.
I am a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan. It is preposterous that I would play for the Packers.