A Parable

The story begins at half time in a game of football. The game was the final in a cup competition. It was the first time in its long history that the club had managed to reach the final but now everyone had high hopes. Some of the older members considered it to be the best team that the club had ever had. There were some exceptionally skilful players and no real weaknesses. The coach was a good football thinker and he had developed some really innovative strategies. He had the full support of all the team. The build-up had been really good.

But now it was half time and they were losing 3-1. The players were sitting in the dressing room totally exhausted. The reason was that they were playing with three players short. Four minutes into the game two Football Association officials arrived with documentation proving that the transfers of five players were invalid. They had previously played in a different code and because of an outstanding debt their transfers had been cancelled. If they were not taken from the field immediately, the game would be forfeited. While the coach was discussing this problem with the officials, a key player, a cental mid-fielder, was caught in an awful tackle and broke his leg. He had been taken to hospital. With only three replacements, the team was reduced to eight men.

The team had played valiantly, but with three players short, it was very hard. Some of their moves had worked really well, but they had only managed to score once. Most of the time their defence had been totally stretched. It was only desperate work by the goal keeper, which had prevented the opposition from scoring more.

The last five minutes of the first half were terrible. Exhausted from their efforts, the players no longer had the energy to make the desperate recovery tackles. The opposition scored two goals in three minutes. Twice the goalie had been charged dangerously, and he had been kicked seriously three times, as he dived at an attacking players feet to save a goal. When the half time whistle sounded, they had been camped on their own penalty area in hopeless defence for two minutes. Had the whistle not blown to end their agony, the other team would certainly have scored.

Now, totally exhausted, they were sitting in a circle with their heads in their hands. The coach was not in the room. Finally the goalie lifted his head. "This is hopeless," he said. "There is no way we can win this game. The second half will be worse, because we are all exhausted. If we go back out there we will be slaughtered. I hope that coach has gone to call the second half off, so we can go straight to the after match function. There is plenty of food and booze, if we stop now, at least we can enjoy the party."

While he was speaking, the coach had walked in unnoticed. "My team never gives up," he said emphatically. "My team never gives up until victory is complete". "I have some good news," he added. "I have just sorted out the transfer problem and have some extra players who can join the team. Although they come from the other code, they are good football players and are able to play our game.

I think that three of them were Jews because they had biblical names. Michael was put on at striker, Stephen at left mid-field and David on the right of mid-field.

The coach then spoke to the goal keeper. "I am taking you off", he said, "You"re stuffed and I have got someone to take your place." His name is David S. Call the other one David B.

Before he went back onto the field the coach said, "The game plan is exactly the same. I coached the new players when they were schoolboys, so they know my style. They will fit with your game.

The first two minutes of the second half were really torrid. The opposition coach had told his players that if they could score in the first few minutes, they would nail the opposition so they came out really fired up.

However, our team put in some tough tackles and held their ground. Then David S made a brilliant save of a long shot that rocketing towards the goal. He quickly rolled the ball out to the other David who was in space on the right flank. He then made a long curling pass that dropped at Michael's feet just as he beat the off-side trap. Michael took two more touches and then chipped a shot over the stunned goal-keeper. who was caught off his ground.

This was the turning point in the game. The opposition was soon totally demoralised. The players in our team just sliced through the defence and scored time after time. David and Stephen were unstoppable as they dribbled down the flanks. Michael received the ball from all over the place and scored freely as he tied the defenders up in knots. For 40 minutes thee team ran rampant and were unstoppable. They were scoring nearly a goal a minute.

The game had one final twist. With two minutes to go, the opposition was awarded a direct free kick just outside the penalty area. Before the penalty was taken, the opposition coach made a substitution. The new player was well known for being a cheat. He smuggled onto the field a ball made of rubber material, which made it easy to curl. Although the ball was illegal, the referee did not notice, so the new player curled and impossible ball around the wall and into the goal. This rallied his team and they were able to stop our team from scoring. Then just as it looked like they might get another goal, the referee blew the final whistle.

It had been a game of two halves. The final score was 41-4; a great victory for the club.

There was a great celebration party after the game, but the goal-keeper had a sad look on his face. He now regretted his words. And he wished he had been on the field when they turned the game around.


The church has been working hard for 2000 years, but if we are honest we are losing the game. You can work out the score by counting the number of people who have lived on earth and the number who have been Christians. The score is about 1 billion to us and about 6 billion for the opposition.

This is hard to understand, because we have a great coach (the Holy Spirit), and he has prepared a great game plan (the Scriptures). We also have some great players. Nevertheless we are seriously losing the game.

If the church were a football team, the knives would be out for the coach. The sportscasters would be saying, "Look at his results — they are not good enough. The coach will have to go."

Many Christians are like the goal-keeper. They have given up all hope of victory. They are hoping for the final whistle so that they can go straight to the great after match function (in the sky).

Their only hope is that Jesus will come and rescue the church: that he will blow evil away (Rambo-like), and establish the victory that the Church and the Holy Spirit have not been able to achieve.

The widespread expectation that the end of the world is near, because we have reached the year 2000 is an illusion. It is like confusing the end of the first half of a game with the final whistle. Christians who understand the times in which we are living will be working hard to end the first half without conceding to much ground. They will be preparing for victory in the second half, not looking for the end of the game.

The problem is that Christians don't understand what God is doing. We don't know his plans. We don't understand the times in which we are living.

A Game of Two Halves

Like this football game, the New Testament age has two halves. During the first part, the focus is on the church and its power rises and falls. In the second half, the Kingdom of God grows to fulfilment. The Kingdom of God has not yet filled the whole earth so we are still in the first half. The events of the second half should not be judged by the standards of the first half. I believe that the first half is coming to an end. We belong to a brilliant team which will have a glorious victory. The Holy Spirit has not been freed to do his best. When that happens we will be amazed at what he will do.(I expect the final score will be about 100 billion to 7 billion.) The second half will be great, so we should take hope and begin preparing for it.


The surnames of the players might have been Owens, Seaman, Beckham and Gerrard.

For a full outline of God's plan, see Times and Seasons.