On Friday, September 8, 2006, Erskine Russell suffered what was presumed to be a stroke as he drove away from a convenience store in Statesboro, Georgia, where he would daily meet with friends for coffee. As a result, Russell’s 2000 Chevrolet Blazer crossed the road and struck a utility pole, cutting off the power to establishment he had just left. By the time the ambulance reached East Georgia Regional Medical Center at 9:10 a.m., Russell was pronounced dead.
Anyone familiar with college football in the Southeast knows of Erskine “Erk” Russell’s unique place in its annals. Erk served as the defensive coordinator for the University of Georgia for 17 years during the “Dooley Era” and helped lead the “Dawgs” to a 1980 National Championship. In 1982, Russell was hired as the head coach for Georgia Southern’s fledgling Eagles football team. Within three years, Russell led the Eagles to a Division I-AA victory in 1985. He would repeat that feat two more times in 1986 and 1989.
Russell was known for a particular phrase he would say to the media as well as to his players as he practiced with them: “Just one more time.” Russell made clear with that comment that one should not look too far ahead in a season or a practice and just take things one game or even one play at a time. To Russell, it was there in that moment that games were won or lost.
I would suggest that Russell’s maxim is appropriate for Christians as well. It is appropriate because Jesus told us to take things “one day at a time.” Note His words: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34 ESV).
As He taught us to pray, Jesus even said to ask only for “our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). What happens when we ignore the importance of today for what could happen tomorrow? We become filled with unnecessary anxiety. We likewise become consumed with the acquisition of the material to the neglect of the spiritual. When we put God and His kingdom first, He will provide all of our needs (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, we need not concern ourselves with anything other than the performance of our duties as Christians.
Russell’s maxim is profitable for Christians also in that it enables the child of God to do as the apostle Paul commanded and make the best use of his or her time since our days are evil (Cf. Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). Brother Burt Coffman says concerning Paul’s inspired words:
How true this was of the time when Paul penned these words. Within a very few years, Rome would be burned, and Nero would drown the Christians in blood to divert suspicion from himself that he personally had set it on fire. Jerusalem would fall to the armies of Vespasian and Titus; and the accumulated wrath of God for centuries of rebellion would finally overflow against Israel. Many who read these words for the first time would soon suffer persecution and death. The days were indeed evil; and only a little while remained before the storm would overwhelm the world, only a little while to walk in the light and joy of the loving service of Christ the Lord.
Christians in the United States may not live in the same conditions as our First-Century compatriots, but our days are certainly as evil. Our judiciary and legislatures are creating evil laws while striking down moral ones making it harder for Christians to speak out against the evil of homosexuality or protect the sanctity of life. The very name of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, are being expunged from American society and we are being encouraged to take our religion behind closed doors. It may be that we have “just one more time” to utilize the current freedoms of the U.S. to fulfill the Great Commission before persecution or even martyrdom begins. While we cannot afford to worry about this disturbing possibility, we certainly cannot allow the forces of opposition keep us from being faithful stewards of the Word.
Finally, Russell’s maxim is profitable for Christians because it helps remind us that we are eventually going to reap a harvest of what we have sown (Cf. Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58). It is far too easy for us to give up when we see no apparent results from our efforts. As a minister and evangelist, I have often heard brethren say, “We tried that in the past and it didn’t work.” The implication of that statement is that they are unwilling to undertake such an effort again. Albert Einstein once said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over again while expecting a different result”. If that were true, then I suppose that it would be reasonable for us to justify our relative lack of evangelistic outreach. Nevertheless, we are not freed from our obligation to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). As God told Ezekiel:
And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.” And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house”. (Ezekiel 2:3-7 ESV)
It may be that our efforts do not produce the results that we desire. But we need to do it “just one more time” since God told us to. Our actions will not be totally void of results. As God told Isaiah:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
Indeed, God is not asking anything more of us but that we give Him our best one day at a time. As we do so, we can be assured of the continual cleansing of Christ’s blood: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV).