I am not the biggest sports fanatic.

Actually, let me not tell a lie. I haven’t the faintest clue how any sport is played aside from the objective of getting the ball across the line or into some net or the other. I merely attend sports events for decorative purposes. So let me put in this disclaimer now:

This post was sponsored by the Holy Spirit with support from Google. 

I have, however, been subjected to the torture of having to sit through game after game not really knowing what was going on the whole time. And as a result of that, I know enough to know that the fourth quarter strategy is crucial to the success of any team.

In the 1987 Superbowl, the Cardinals won the game 31-28 over the Buccaneers despite trailing 28-3 heading into the fourth quarter. In the 2014 playoffs, the Chiefs had a 31-10 lead by half time, but a couple touch downs later and the Colts won 45-44. I could google a lot more comeback games to share with you, but frankly I’m getting tired trying to figure out what all the sports jargon means, so I’ll just cut a long story short and say this:

Basically, it’s not how you start, but rather, how you finish, that will determine whether or not you win the game, whether or not your name will go down in Hall of Fame history, and whether or not you get the ring.

I’m sure you get the point though. These teams were down and out by halftime, and things looked bleak. But in the blink of an eye, they went from pending failure to victory. And while a lot of it might seem like chance, and a free shot here and there, winning teams are really built on winning strategy.

It’s the fourth quarter of 2016 y’all. And just like sports, the fourth quarter requires a specific kind of strategy in order to make sure you end this year winning.

If this year hasn’t been the greatest in your books, a fourth quarter strategy is essential if you hope to turn it around. If you’ve been losing the first three quarters, the fourth quarter is when you call a recess in the game and start to restrategize. You can’t do the exact same things you did all year and expect things to change. Hebrews 12 tells us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. (AMP)

In the fourth quarter, you have to be willing to forget everything that has happened up till now, scrap your old game plan, get rid of those unnecessary weights (people, activities, habits), and focus on winning the game with some new tactics, or perhaps some old ones that you haven’t pulled out in a while.

And if this year has been great so far and you are just riding it out to the finish line – you’re still going to need a fourth quarter strategy in order to make sure you end it up on your feet. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says:

Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being overconfident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation].

The fourth quarter is harvest season – when all your hard work begins to pay off and the fruits of your labor begin to flourish – and that’s when our opponent tends to go on the offensive, prowling like a lion and seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). If you do not have a fourth quarter strategy, everything you put in up till now can be in vain.

So how do you create a successful fourth quarter strategy?

Well, the first thing you need to understand is that the only successful strategy in sports or business or our faith is a team strategy.

So let’s talk about what your team looks like:

The Coach.

The United Kingdom Coaching Strategy describes the role of the sports coach as one that “enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to a degree that may not have been possible if left to his/her own endeavors“. I don’t think there could possibly be a better descriptor of what God does for us. On our own, we might be good, but when God steps onto the playing fields of our lives, we become better. His power at work in us enables us to go harder, to last longer, to endure things that otherwise might break us, and to believe for greater victories than we ever could have imagined. And as a coach He also plays role of mentor, friend, counselor, motivator, fountain of knowledge, supporter, educator, etc.

For a coach to make the most out of a player, the player has to be an engaged and willing participant. God is always handing out the plays and instructions you need to win, because He knows the opponent, and He knows his strategy. But you have to be willing to sit down in front of Him and accept his instruction and correction. A successful fourth quarter strategy will always involve spending more time with the Coach doing just that. More time in His Word. More time asking for His direction and wisdom. More time understanding His [Game] Plan.

The Captain.

“The team captain is supposed to be courageous and level-headed during the game so as to observe all the rules and lead as an example to his fellow playmates. This will lead the players to emulate him. The interaction between the captain and his fellow teammates both in and off the field enables him to comprehend the team’s grievances and communicate it to the coach.”

Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 12:25)

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:6)

See, God understood that his children didn’t just need a Coach, they needed a Captain. They needed someone who had been down in the trenches like they had, and had endured all the pain and suffering and heartache and ridicule – but who had also won the most amazing victory and so could show us just how to do it. We have a real life example to follow, someone who has already faced our opponent and won out so we never have to worry about losing again so long as we follow his lead.

Lucky for us, our captain also happens to be our MVP. And a strong fourth quarter strategy is when our MVP shows up and shows out. But the thing about both the sports field and the field of faith is that your MVP can only win the game if you pass him the ball.

What balls in your life have you been trying to shoot all year and been failing at miserably? Jesus has literally been on the court all this while waiting for you to pass him those problems and plans and hopes and fears and dreams, so he can win the game for you. He’s wide open, so to win the game, you gotta utilize your MVP. Let him take the shots that you just cannot for whatever reason, and trust that he knows enough to know when a shot is not worth taking.

Your Teammates.

While the Coach and the Captain/MVP are highly crucial to this fourth quarter strategy we’re trying to establish, you need a solid team to get you to the finish line. A player is only as good as his team, and this is especially true of our faith.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. (Acts 2:44-45)

By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

You need to surround yourself with a team who you know will work hard to make sure you win, because a win for you is a win for the team – for the Kingdom. A strong team will block the attacks from your opponent – whether they come in the form of temptation or fear or doubt. They will encourage you, uphold, you, pray for you, contend with you. They will be there to remind you of who your MVP is, and what the Coach has planned. If you do not surround yourself with A1 team players who will run hard alongside you to the finish line, you will most likely struggle with the ball (your dreams/hopes/aspirations/purpose) alone.

Sometimes you may even find that the coach will call some of your teammates off the field in the fourth quarter and put in some new players. Don’t be alarmed. Trust not just in your ability to choose good people to do life with, but in God’s ability to provide you with them. Not everyone knows the plays needed to get you through this final quarter – and sometimes others have already played their part in the first three quarters.

My church is currently in a series called “Better Together”, which has been our informal motto over the years. We are better together because that’s the way Christ meant for it to be. We were never meant to walk alone, and it is only in community that we can truly live out the kind of life Jesus died to give us. A winning strategy in our faith will always include the work and input of others.

I have no idea what you hoped to achieve in this year – maybe it’s starting a business, or finding a new job, or overcoming an addiction, or getting through a degree. I don’t know what challenges you have or haven’t faced along the way. I don’t know what you’ve been through or what you will possibly go through before the year is over. But I do know that you need a team strategy in order to come out winning.

So as you set up your plans for these next three months, I need you to start getting huddled up with the Coach every free moment you get. Keep your eyes on the Captain – read his plays and follow his lead. Then work with your coach to pick a winning team – both offensive and defensive players – who will get you across the touchdown line for 2016 in whatever area you’re working towards.