On January 2, 1922, the underdog Aggies of Texas A&M took to the field against mighty Centre College, the number one team in the country. Back then, the small agricultural school did not have an abundance of players on the team. As the hard-fought gridiron battle wore on, injuries and fatigue forced the Aggies to dig deeply into their limited reserves.
Sensing the possibility of running out of players, coach Dana Bible remembered a squad man who was not suited up for the championship game. His name was E. King Gill and he was up in the press box helping identify players for reporters. Gill had played football in the regular season, but was now only playing basketball.
Coach Bible sent for Gill. Gill suited up in an injured Aggie’s uniform and stood ready throughout the rest of the game. When the game finally ended, A&M had upset Centre College by a score of 22-14. On the sidelines, E. King Gill was the only man left standing. Gill was later quoted as saying, “I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me.”
Gill’s enthusiasm and willingness to serve inspired a movement that lasts to this day. At all Texas A&M football games, the entire student body stands by as “the 12th man,” symbolizing their spirit and devotion. The slogan is plastered across their stadium and a bronze statue of Gill greets those attending the games.
The book of Daniel tells the well-known story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They chose to stand for God, instead of bowing down King Nebuchadnezzar. Consequently, they were condemned to death. But as the three faithful young men were thrown into a fiery pit, something miraculous happened.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
(Daniel 3:16-25, NIV)
God’s presence was there in the fire with those who stood firmly for Him. They trusted God, whether he chose to save their lives or not. In their case, they walked away unharmed.
However you count it – fourth man or 12th man – the principle remains the same. God wants to be a part of our lives. As we stand for Him, he will stand with us. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32, NLT)
Here’s the critical point: we must ask God into our lives. The Bible says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Revelation 3:20, NIV) God has granted us the choice to live our lives without Him, trying to make it under our own power. Yet, like that willing athlete on the sidelines, He awaits our call.
Many of us go through our daily life trying to make decisions on our own. Sure, we call ourselves believers, but like the Aggies, we leave our “12th man” on the sideline. It may give us comfort to know that He is there, but we never really ask Him into the game.
What we fail to realize is that Jesus Christ is our star player. He’s the difference maker on every play! Once we start to ask Him to participate in our daily lives, even in the things we think are small or unimportant, we will find victory. Jesus will not force Himself on you. If you truly want God to bless your life, you must ask. If you really want to Jesus Christ to play a central role in your daily affairs, you must ask.
Don’t leave your “12th man” on the sidelines. Ask Him to join in today.