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Never Die Easy

Walter Payton ranks second on the National Football League's list of all-time leaders in rushing yards. Through 13 seasons as a Chicago Bear Payton was tackled and knocked down thousands of times. He built an extra-ordinary career, not by getting knocked down, but by not staying down! He was knocked down a final time when he died on November 1, 1999 of a rare autoimmune liver disease, a few months over 45 years old. Payton had a motto in life — "Never Die Easy" — which he attributed to Bob Hill, his coach at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. In practice, this meant that Payton refused to deliberately run out-of-bounds and always sought to resist would-be-tacklers instead of going down or giving in without a fight. Never Die Easy is also the title of Payton's posthumously published autobiography.

The words "never die easy" and the approach to life they represent have an application far beyond the football field. The Christian life requires that we commit to "never die easy." Jesus lived and died that way. One place that makes that clear is John 19:30 where, in His dying moments on the cross, Jesus cried, "It is finished." The context reveals that although He is nearing death, He did not die easy. He was scourged, beaten, spit on, mocked, stripped, and nailed to the cross (John 19:1-18; Matthew 26-27; Luke 22-23). Surrounded by a hostile crowd that taunted and jeered and insulted Him, Jesus hung on to God's plan and purpose for His life even as He hung on a rugged cross — held there not just by metal spikes but by a love stronger than even those spikes — a love His foes could not beat or crucify or shame or shout out of Him. In the midst of that gut-wrenching kind of struggle Jesus said, "It is finished" - not a cry of defeat but of victory! Notice the Lord did not say, "I am finished," but, "It is finished." Precisely what "it" was is made clear back in John 17:4 when He prayed to His Father (a few hours before dying on the cross), "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." By His death on the cross Jesus completed God's wondrous plan to save man, a plan born in eternity, carried out over thousands of years, and culminating in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As He prepared to draw His last breath, in awful circumstances that included shedding His blood for our sins, the Son of God said, with a cry of triumph, "It is finished." He went on to die but then got up from the grave three days later!

How about you? As a Christian are you taking the easy way out, or have you committed yourself to "never die easy?" Some marriages die far too easily, with little or no fight to save them. Some Christians leave the faith too easily. Some get tired of serving and just pitch in the towel. Others are let down by someone in the church and just quit the Lord. How many begin the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12) only to give up far before they finish? Are you close to quitting? Are your circumstances discouraging? Are you weary and heavy-hearted? Pessimistic about your job? Have your dreams not materialized? Are you tired of the daily grind? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Do you find yourself just wanting to give up? Don't do it! Heaven will not be for those who die easy. Let us, like Jesus, commit to finishing God's will and work for our lives no matter what comes. Never die easy! Pray about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ