The date- Saturday, November 26, 1994. The place- Texas Stadium in Irving Texas, then home to the Dallas Cowboys. The occasion- a high school football regional semifinal playoff game between the Lions of John Tyler High School and the Plano East Panthers. You think WE take high school football seriously- the game drew a crowd of 20,000 AND national attention…due to its wildly improbable finish.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Lions were leading the Panthers 24–17. The Lions hit a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make the score 27–17. Towards the end of the quarter, as the Panthers were first-and-goal, the ball was stripped from their quarterback and the resulting fumble was returned 90 yards for a touchdown and a 34–17 lead with 4:24 remaining. On the fourth play of the Panthers’ next possession, another fumble was returned 36 yards for a touchdown, giving the Lions a seemingly insurmountable 41–17 lead with only 3:03 remaining. Many fans were already headed for the exits.
The Panthers scored a touchdown to bring the score to 41–23 with only 2:36 left on the clock. The Panthers then successfully executed not one, not two but THREE onside kicks, recovering the ball each time and scoring a touchdown each time. They had, against all odds, taken the lead, 44–41, with only 24 seconds remaining.
But, there was to be one final twist in this wild game. Again, with only 24 seconds left, the Panthers kicked off. The Lions’ kick returner caught the ball at his own three-yard line…and promptly ran it back 97 yards for a touchdown, putting the Lions BACK on top 48-44 with 11 seconds left in the game! The game ended two plays later with an interception.
Between the two teams, seven touchdowns were scored in the final four and a half minutes. Interestingly, the winning Lions’ offensive team never touched the ball again after their field goal early in the fourth quarter. Their final 21 points were scored by their defense and special teams. Oh, and the kick returner who won the game with a 97-yard return run? It was the only touchdown of his high school career! The game has been billed by many sportscasters as the greatest high school football game ever played. What a comeback!
Today, we wrap up our current sermon series- Your Comeback. Based on the book by Tony Evans, this series focuses on fear- fear that you’ve fallen too far to be used by God. We have been focusing on epic comebacks of sports teams who seemingly had no shot at victory and coupling them with Biblical heroes with scandalous pasts to show that God can turn things around for anybody—including you! Week 1, we started with began with the notion that we are called to think different. Week 2, we took the word “different” to the next level as we talked about embracing the unusual! Week 3, we looked at what it means to not stay down. Last week, we spent some time focusing on the fact that we need to keep moving forward. Today, we come to the end as we talk about staring down the challenge.
2Chronicles 20:14-17 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
By this time in Israel’s history, the kingdom had been divided- Israel to the north and Judah to the south. At this point, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah. An alliance of nations decides to march against Them. King Jehoshaphat looks to God for help. Then this guy, Jahaziel- (Ja-ha‘-zi-el)- we don’t know much at all about him) tells King Jehoshaphat that God will deliver Judah without a fight. So, King Jehoshaphat goes out to battle with singers leading the way, singing praise to the Lord. An unusual battle strategy, to say the least. But it is exactly then that God works His miracle. He turns this alliance of nations against each other…and when the dust settles, the enemy has defeated themselves! The men of Judah then spend three days collecting the spoils of war left by their enemies. Jehoshaphat’s men stared down the challenge, in the face of overwhelming odds, and were protected by God. They did what God told them to, even though it made no “earthly” sense.
Notice- Not only did King Jehoshaphat’s troops stare down their challenge, did you see HOW they “led the charge”? They led…LED…with SINGERS! I don’t recall Patton asking Sinatra and Torme to join Nat King Cole as the “front line” when he attacked. But it DOES remind me of the stories my wife’s grandpa would tell about WW1 and how, as a member of the Scottish Regimen, they would have the pipers walk the top of the trenches at dawn to announce the coming of the Scottish troops! Joshua fought the battle of Jericho with trumpeters leading the way. Jehoshaphat’s troops were led by singers singing praise to God. They were NOT afraid. They were NOT discouraged. They did what God told them to do, regardless of how odd it seemed, and He was with them, assuring victory.
God is omniscient- all-knowing. God is omnipresent- – everywhere. God is omnipotent- all powerful. So9 we say that God can do anything He chooses to do. And from a certain perspective, that is absolutely true. But I would argue that, even for God, there are some things He cannot do. Now, before you get the tar and feathers out- hear me out.
What can God, the Creator of ALL things, possibly NOT do? God can’t fully make me into the person He is calling me to be if I am unwilling or unable to stand and face my challenges, trusting that He has my back. Not gonna happen.
Your comeback can’t happen if you let the demons in your life keep you from moving forward. If you always let your circumstances dictate what you do, who you are, then you will NEVER be who God is calling you to be. It’s impossible. But if you refuse to simply pull the covers up a little tighter and try to hide from the world, from your challenges, that’s when God can REALLY start doing what He does best!
What challenges are you facing today? Maybe you have a financial hardship that seems insurmountable. Face it. Don’t make it someone else’s problem. Don’t try and tell other people they need to bail you out. Face it yourself. Maybe you are in the midst of a difficult, even toxic relationship. Face it. See it for what it is and figure out what to do about it. Maybe you are wrestling with issues of self-worth- you don’t matter or you’re not worthy of love. Face them, remembering that God made you who you are- you are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. Maybe…maybe…maybe. I could go on all day with potential maybes. I might hit on yours…I might not. But God rules in spite of the situation you face. The problem isn’t yours- the battle is God’s. YOU know what your struggles are. And God knows what your struggles are. And together, you CAN face them. Together, you CAN stare them down. And together, you CAN move forward and find YOUR comeback!