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Faith Focus: Are you running in the right direction?

FRANKLIN LIVING— It is New Year’s Day 1929, and UC Berkley and Georgia Tech are squaring off in the Rose Bowl. During the first half, Tech halfback Stumpy Thomason fumbles on his own 20-yard line, and Berkley defensive back Roy Riegels recovers the fumble and begins returning the ball.

Unfortunately, while dodging would-be tacklers, Riegels changes course and, in doing so, changes his legacy.

Riegels ends up running the wrong way – toward his own end zone! Thinking he’s on his way to scoring a touchdown for his team, he’s actually racing toward scoring a safety for Georgia Tech. By the time he figures out his error, it is too late, and the safety is scored for Tech. Roy Riegels is best remembered for what he did wrong.

At the time of this writing, it is still very much up in the air whether we will get our fall college football fix this year. Yet, the story of “Wrong-way Riegels” and his Rose Bowl blunder still provides an important reminder some 90 years later.

As we navigate the problems, obstacles and challenges that make up the game of life, it is easy to become so turned around that we end up running in the wrong direction. In 2 Timothy 2:22, the apostle Paul wrote, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Paul’s inspired words serve as a reminder that a healthy relationship with God is about more than just running away from certain temptations and obstacles. It’s also about the constant pursuit of the virtues that he lists – ones that are revealed throughout the New Testament.

It’s also worth noting that Paul teaches us that our pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace will be most successful when we join with others who are pursuing those virtues too.

As the story is told, Roy Riegels was so devastated by his costly error that he didn’t want to come out of the locker room for the second half that day. Thankfully, Coach Nibs Price didn’t give up on Riegels, and he wouldn’t allow the young man to give up on himself. The coach reminded his embarrassed player that the game was only half over, and it was reported that no one played harder in the second half that day than Roy Riegels.

Thankfully, we serve a God who doesn’t give up on us. While we won’t get to decide whether college football games get played this fall, it is up to us to decide if we will run in the direction God wants us to. Are you running in the right direction today?

Philip Goad is the minister at North Highlands Church of Christ in Russellville. He is married to Marla, and they have a daughter, Kayla Thorne, who is married to Josh. They also have a son, Preston and one grandchild, Greyson Thorne.