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Play the Next Play, Not Affected by the Previous Play

One of the toughest things to overcome in life—whether one has failed at a particular task, or has dived straight into a pit of sin—is to move forward without being affected by the previous play. Yet this is exactly what we are called to do.

During one period in my life, a deep sadness enveloped my soul. I was following the call of God, yet overwhelmed with various responsibilities demanding my full attention. In addition, I was missing family who lived hours away. Emotions of sorrow and beleaguerment had set out to capture me, and with my permission, they had succeeded.

One evening, as I had concluded my work shift, I found myself listening to a testimony by Coach Dabo Swinney, the head football coach at Clemson University. Dabo had overcome many obstacles in his life and his story was amazing and most impactful. Instead of complaining, he gave praise to God. Instead of quitting, he continued to move forward, embracing each assignment as a stepping stone toward his future calling. As I finished listening to Coach Swinney’s testimony, I was inspired, yet reminded of the importance of continuing to move forward with Jesus, in spite of the many obstacles in my path.

Later that evening, I came across a motivational talk given by Coach Nick Saban, head football coach of the University of Alabama. As I started listening to his speech, I was captivated by the examples he used in relation to life lessons and team-building. At the close of his speech, Coach Saban uttered one of the most profound statements I had ever heard: “Play the next play, not affected by the previous play.”

As stated previously in this blog, one of the toughest things to do in life is to move forward without being affected by the previous play. Yet, in all truthfulness, we must do just that. We can learn valuable lessons from our failures, which will grow us as we move forward to the next play. However, we must guard against taking the failure itself with us. When we have engaged in a lifestyle of sin, repentance must come; yet, in addition, the acceptance of God’s forgiveness must be embraced with a resolve to move forward in His mercy and grace to the next play He calls for our lives.

Paul was a man who had made many mistakes. Yet he knew the importance of leaving those failures in the hands of God, while moving forward—a forgiven man—to each new day granted him. He stated: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14, NASB).

Though others linger in our mistakes, we do not have to follow suit.

Some individuals in life will never forget the fumbles made, the flags thrown, or even the missed touchdown passes. Some people will spend the rest of their lives talking about the prodigal child instead of the Savior who turned his life around. They will focus more on the mistakes made than on the victories obtained. Yet even though such individuals choose to live their lives stuck in people’s past failures, we do not have to follow suit.

“Play the Next Play, Not Affected by the Previous Play.”

Often when a football team is attempting to score, countless plays are executed before a touchdown is ever completed. In spite of the flags thrown, and the various turnovers committed, the team continues to move down the field one play at a time until they score.

Yet, to move down the field successfully, they must remember to “Make the next play, not affected by the previous play.”

Years ago, two SEC teams took the field for a fierce competition. After showing great potential in several practices, a freshman was sent into the game. However, little did the football player know that minutes after he arrived on the field, he would fumble the ball in front of millions of people.

As the disheartened, disappointed young athlete stood speechless, he put his head down and started walking off the field. To his surprise, as he lifted his head, he encountered his coach pointing his finger toward the field, while uttering the message, “Get back into the game.” The young player never thought he would hear that message, especially after a fumble that had put the team’s win in jeopardy.

Get back into the game!

As the freshman turned around to face the next play, he made a very important decision. He left the fumble behind him, and embraced the next play in front of him. For the rest of the game, he gave it his all, only later to find himself intercepting a pass during a crucial play that put his team in the lead, and ultimately gained them the victory.

At the end of the young player’s career, he obtained many awards, while setting countless records. What he would have missed had he allowed the fumble to define him, taking it with him to the next play presented to him!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3, NASB).

We have a Savior who daily is giving us another play to make. Lift up your head today, get back in the game, and move forward to the next play God has for you, affected not by the last play.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win (1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB).

Written by, O’Shea