Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Today’s Topic: Forget the Past
Today’s Text: 1 Samuel 11:13 But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.”
Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall. And it’s haunted him ever since. “I cost us a national championship,” he says.
The University of Texas football team was ranked number one in the nation. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss.
“The only thing I had between me and the goal,” he recalls, “was twenty yards of grass.”
The throw was on target. Longhorn fans rose to their feet. The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through.
Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.
“I think about that play every day,” Doss admits.
Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A father. Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates. He intercepted seventeen passes during his collegiate career, a university record. He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.
Most fans remember the plays Doss made and the passes he caught. Doss remembers the one he missed. Once, upon meeting a new Longhorn head coach, Doss told him about the bobbled ball. It had been fifty years since the game, but he wept as he spoke.
We all live with regrets. The memories of past failures and hurts haunt us. We spend a great amount of time and energy trying to right the wrongs in an attempt to heal the wounds. We sometimes seek revenge against the ones who hurt us.
Such was the case in Israel at the beginning of the reign of King Saul. Some men, described in the tenth chapter of First Samuel as worthless men, tried to discredit Saul and keep him from being honored as King. They spread the word that Saul was incapable of leading the nation and bringing victory against their enemies.
On another front, the Ammonites were invading part of Israel’s land and making frightening threats about gouging out eyes. When Saul got word about it, he rallied the people of Israel, and under the power of the Holy Spirit of God he came with an army of men and wiped out the Ammonites.
During the victory celebration people started to demand justice against the worthless men who had dishonored King Saul. They fully expected that their king would respond according to the flesh and want to make a public spectacle of these guys who had been so wrong. Who wouldn’t want to set the record straight?
But King Saul, with the wisdom of God, said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” The past didn’t matter. What mattered is what God was doing in the present and what He had planned for the future.
The Apostle Paul understood this truth when he wrote in Philippians 3, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…”
We all have multiple memories of past hurts and failures. Do not let them define you or consume you. Bury them under the present Presence of Jesus Christ in your life. Do not spend time focused on death when you are the possessor of eternal life. Release the hurt and let it go for good. Embrace what Jesus is doing today.