3 So Jonah got up—to flee to Tarshish from the Lord! He went down to Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord. 4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, so that there was a great storm on the sea; the ship looked like it might be broken to pieces. 5 The sailors were terrified, and each one cried out to his god. They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to make it lighter.
Now Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel to lie down and was deep in sleep. 6 The ship’s officer came and said to him, “How can you possibly be sleeping so deeply? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps the god will give some thought to us so that we won’t perish” (Jonah 1:3-6, Common English Bible).
Even if you are a casual college football fan and perhaps even if you are not, there is a pretty good chance you have at least heard the story of Roy Riegels even if you are not old enough to have seen the story unfold. Few of us are that old.
It was New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. During the game, Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later, the Bruins had to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team.
The strange play came in the first half. At half-time, the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As others sat down on the benches and the floor, Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands.
A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during halftime. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels.
When the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him. Riegels didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”
Roy Riegels looked up, his cheeks wet with tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the university’s reputation. I’ve ruined myself. I can’t face that crowd out there.”
Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Riegels’s shoulder, and said, “Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over.”
Riegels finally did get up. He went onto the field, and the fans saw him play hard and play well.
Jonah also ran in the wrong direction. Unlike Roy Riegel’s, Jonah did it on purpose. Jonah was not at all interested in doing what God was calling him to do. I can’t help but wonder if God was wondering what to do with Jonah.
Roy Riegels faced an internal storm. He had hurt his team and he knew it. The coach might not have known for a while what to do with Roy, but instead of tearing him down, Coach Price showed grace.
For Jonah, the storm was real. But, as we shall see in a few days, so was the presence of the grace of God.
All of us have run a long way in the wrong direction at least some of the time. Because of God’s grace, however, we are not sacrificed. We get the opportunity to keep on playing. We get the chance to play hard and play well, not for our redemption, but for another chance to give our best to God.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Story of Roy Riegels is from Preaching Today.