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Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter responded, “Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus asked him the same question two more times. I always wondered about that. Apparently Peter didn’t get it right the first time. What was Jesus looking for in Peter’s answer? I would like to know myself in case Jesus ever asked me. “Peter, son of Alfred, do you love me?” Well, there is some good news Peter wrote the answer in one of his letters to the early Christians. It reads, “May your love be fervent.” The word “fervent” happens to be a technical term among athletes to help them win the race. It means to “strain forward,” that is, “to lean into the tape” at the end of a race. In other words, it is not what you do at the beginning of the race; it is about what you do at the end of the race when you are most fatigued. Everyone is excited at the beginning, everyone wants to win, everyone has lots of energy at the start. Yet what do you do at the end of the race when you are tired and have nothing left in the tank. Are you leaning into the tape? Is your love fervent?

In 2004, the Red Sox were in the pennant race with the Yankees. The Sox were down 3 games. It was the bottom of the ninth inning. The Yankees were winning 4 to 3. Kevin Millar, who never gets a hit, is facing the greatest closer in baseball history Mariano Rivera. Millar did not get a hit but he managed a walk. They put the new speedster Dave Roberts on first to run the bases. He stole second and Bill Mueller got a hit and the game was tied. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, the Red Sox won the game with a David Ortiz walk off and they continued winning until for the first time in eighty-six years they won the World Series. What made this championship so special was not the fact that they finally won after so many years. It was the way they won. The worst hitter meets the greatest closer. It was that moment when everyone thought it was going to end in defeat. What do you do when you find yourself in difficulty?

We all know from the countless stories in Scripture that God is always victorious,. It is not that God wins, but it is the way in which God wins. God defeats Goliath with a young inexperienced shepherd named David. God defeats huge enemy numbers with a depleted Israelite army: He says to Gideon, “You have too many soldiers.” Jesus rises from the dead. It is the way God wins that makes God so special. God loves a great ending.

Take a look at what happens to the seed that falls to rocky ground? It sprouted up strong, but then the sun scorched it at it withered. I believe that the parable is a warning to all of us disciples. Yes, disciples are always enthusiastic at the beginning. They gave up their boats, their businesses, they went out in two’s and cured sick people, expelled demons, passed out bread to five thousand people, they were part of a team that brought the dead back to life. They accomplished much with the Lord. But what do we do when we encounter hardships, storms at sea, resistance, opponents, crosses, and certain death. We get discouraged, down, depressed. We essentially forget that God loves victories from behind. Remember, it is what we do when are most exhausted, depleted, and worn. That is what happens at the end of the race. So stretch into the tape, and make your love fervent. 

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