Next Man Up

Next Man Up

We witnessed history.  Now, maybe it wasn’t the changing the world kind of history that you tell you grandkids about someday, but it was history none the less.  Not many people gave the Ohio State Buckeyes a chance at winning the first football National Championship in the new playoff era.  I certainly did not give them much of a look, especially after both their starting and backup quarterbacks went down. 

Most college football programs struggle when they have to install a new quarterback.  It would probably take a few games in order for the new starter to begin to feel a certain level of comfort.  Ohio State did not have a few games to give up in order for Cardale Jones to get his feet wet.  In Biblical terms, he was certainly thrown straight into the lion’s den.  However, Cardale understood one fairly important concept:  his job was not to go out there and try to win the game all on his own.  His responsibility was to not lose the game for his team.  He did have some turnovers, but he also had several big plays.  And, in the end, he had done enough for his team to win the National Championship!

There were lots of interviews after the game, as you can imagine.  Several players used the same phrase when it came to what Cardale had to do for this team.  They expressed it this way: “We had to have a Next Man Up mentality.”  In general, when athletes use this phrase, what they are referring to is the fact that injuries are always a part of the game.  When one player goes down, someone has to be willing and able to step up and take his place.   The problem, of course, is not necessarily the willingness, it is the ability to jump in and do just as well as the player who was injured.  For a major college program to recover from their marquee player going down is a pretty big deal.  For it to happen twice in one season is truly incredible!

So, of course, this lead me to some application for us as disciples of Christ.  Are we not supposed to have the same mindset?  Are we not supposed to be ready whenever God calls us to step in and do our part to accomplish His will on earth?  Maybe we look around and we think there are many others who would be selected ahead of us, but God does not really work that way.  God’s word to us is very clear.  He has work to be done out there and some of it has our names already on it!

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Here are some truths for our consideration:

First, there is only One who is irreplaceable!  As far as I can tell, Jesus Christ is the one and only human who has ever lived and did a job that no one else could ever do.  He died as a substitute for all who would accept His free gift willingly.  Even if we sacrificed ourselves for someone else, it still would not have the same meaning or significance that Christ’s death had.  He is truly one of a kind.

Since Christ is the only one who is irreplaceable, that makes the rest of us dispensable.  God can move us in and out of places and situations at His pleasure in order to accomplish His will.  No doubt, this takes a great deal of trust on the part of His followers, but our Heavenly Father always knows best!

Second, luck favors the prepared.  If we are going to step up and take advantage of whatever opportunities the Lord provides, we have to be busy now, in the background, getting prepared.  I promise you that Cardale didn’t just wake up one day and become a great quarterback for the Buckeyes.  Even though he did not win the position of starter at the beginning of the season (or for that matter, even the position of back up), he continued to work hard every day in order to be ready, just in case he was needed.  What does that mean in our spiritual lives?  It means that we are busy today in Bible study and prayer.  We are working on our relationship with God and allowing Him to work on our hearts.  In addition, we are being faithful in the little things that He is calling us to today.  Faithfulness with the little is rewarded with more and more responsibility in the future!

And finally, we have to trust the plan.  The only way that this “Next Man Up” philosophy works is if everybody is on the same page as far as the plan is concerned.  Like I said in the beginning, Cardale did not have to go out there and be a game changer, he just could not be the game loser.  He had to trust the hard working guys around him and then just do his little part of the plan!

God’s plan for us, as his followers, is very clear in Scripture.  God wants us to be involved in a great relationship with Him and for us to share that love with those around us!  It really is that simple.  If we try to do more or less than this, we could fall flat on our faces.  But, if we will trust God’s plan for our lives, we could find that we are able to a part of something that is pretty amazing.

As a pastor of a local church, I have days where I get to stand back and just observe what God is doing in the life of His people.  When I see growth, when I see spiritual hunger, and when I see love being poured out on others, I cannot help but think God really is doing something special!  I am grateful that I get to be a little part of the history that God is making.

So, the only question then is this:  When God says “Next Man Up” or “Next Woman Up” will you be ready to step forward and do your part?