Today we recognize the academic achievement of students from the second quarter. We are now halfway through the school year. I am guessing some of you are quite pleased with your grades so far this year. Some, I would guess, are a little disappointed and would like to do better.
This is an important time of the school year. If you think of the school year as a football game, we just came out from halftime (and hopefully you are running out of the same tunnel as Nick Saban). We worked hard and drove down the field during the last two minutes of the first half. Some of you scored a touchdown, some kicked the field goal, and some, well maybe you were just happy to make it to locker room in one piece. But now we are back on the field. The game has started again. It is very important to start off the second half strong, especially if you want to score a touchdown. But there is something else to look ahead to. To finish.
I played volleyball and in volleyball, in order to win the match, you had to win three out of five sets. To win a set you had to score 25 points and win by at least two points. It was not enough to win the first set, or even the first and second set. You could still lose the match. You could even score 25 points and lose the set because you were not two points ahead and the other team ended up going ahead and scoring 27 points. You had to finish the entire set and match.
My senior year of high school, we were in the finals of a national qualifying tournament, where the winner had an automatic bid to the national tournament. We were playing a team that we had beaten twice already that year. We felt confident and in fact, too confident. They played like you should in a tournament championship, aggressive, energetic, and scrappy. We did not. The match came down to the last set. We had finally started realizing that we were going to lose if we didn’t step up. We had sided out and had serve but they had set and match point. We were going to have to hold serve to extend the set. Our middle blocker went back to serve and promptly served it wide. Out of bounds. We lose. I remember several players on my team being so mad at him. I was too at first but I stopped and thought of all the mistakes I had made by not taking this team and this moment as seriously as I should have. We lost that match not in one point, but in little things, all along the way. Nothing that seemed to be a big deal. An attack hit out of bounds. A blocker jumping into the net. A missed pass. Not communicating on a dig. Not hustling after a loose ball. All these little points that we gave away, added up to a loss. How does this all relate to looking ahead to the spring semester?
This semester is not a sprint. It is not based on what you did last semester. It will not be based on how you are these first few weeks. No, it is an endurance race. The way you win in a race, is you have to keep running, step by step. Day by day. Class by class. Just as a volleyball set is won point by point, you have to persevere and show endurance each and every day.
There is a well-known fable of the tortoise and the hare. If you remember the hare, the rabbit, mocked the tortoise for being slow. The tortoise challenged the hare to a race. The hare sprint out ahead and was so far ahead that he decided to take a nap until the tortoise caught up. What did the tortoise do? Kept moving. Kept working. Step by step. Eventually, the hare woke up to see the tortoise near the finish line. He sprinted to beat him but it was too late. What is the moral? We are to be like the tortoise. Working to do our best every day. We are not to be like the hare that we have these great days and then slack off. Then we realize our grades are poor and we start going into overdrive again to get caught up.
You see there is something inside us that motivates us to do what we do. The student who has been on the all A honor roll both quarters and the student who has not been on honor roll at all this year, both are motivated to do what they do because we all are seeking something. We are looking for something that God has hardwired into our soul. We want glory. We want something to worship. And we are highly motivated to seek after that glory. Because we want something that will satisfy the desire of our heart. Here is the danger that we all face because of sin. We look at created things instead of the creator. If your sole motivation to be a good student is to be on honor roll and be recognized in chapel, then you are looking in the wrong place. You are seeking your own glory. If you are motivated to be a half-hearted, sprint and then slack off student, because you want the glory of trying to avoid work, then you are not only looking for satisfaction in the wrong place, you are developing poor character traits. Your motivation and mine is in one place. Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it to our fullest, do our best, for God’s glory. One of my favorite definitions of success is one coined by a famous college basketball coach, John Wooden. He was the coach for UCLA and in 12 years won 10 national championships including seven in a row. He said,
“success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
I would add, to the glory of God. When we give the effort to do the best of which you are capable, Coach Wooden says two things happen. First, you have peace of mind. That peace comes knowing that whatever has happened, you did your best. No sleepless nights. No panic attacks. Second, there is satisfaction. No regrets.
There is a Latin phrase for how we are to approach this semester. It is Festina Lente. It means make haste, slowly. Seems like an oxymoron. How can you go fast slowly? Think about learning something new. Those that can ride a bike, remember how hard it was to learn. You are not a computer that just downloads the information and you kick off the training wheels and away you go. No, you learn little by little. Trial and error. You fall but you get back up You reach small goals. 10 feet without falling. 20 feet. You get excited at the progress. You keep working, getting better. If you stick with it, over time, you will master it and now you can jump on your bike no problem. You made haste slowly. The same is true for any subject at school. Learning the music for a performance, writing a paper, learning grammar, on and on. We are to make haste slowly.
The challenge this semester is to make haste slowly in each class, for each day. We are not only to have a good start, we are to be great finishers. When you are tempted to slack off, or when you get frustrated and tired, these are times to remind you of your weakness so you can put your trust in the almighty God. We put our hope in Him. Seek His glory in our daily effort. We sink our roots into the promises of our God and draw in the energy that can only come from an eternal heavenly Father who will give us what we need, He gives us our daily bread. That should motivate us to do our best because we want God to be glorified in everything we do.