As I parked my car outside the Peoria Civic Center and pushed through the humid air toward the arena, I had no idea that God was about to blow my mind. As team chaplain for the hometown Pirates of the fledgling Indoor Football League, I thought I was there simply to give a pregame chapel talk before the Pirates went to war with the Dayton Skyhawks in the semifinals of the league play-offs. At stake was a berth in the first-ever Gold Cup game.
I was locked, loaded, and ready to throw down my 10-minute devotional—an inspiring message about the biblical significance of the number 41, which I had originally intended to use as my season-opening chapel talk. In about two hours, it would become crystal clear why I had put it off each week until this soon-to-be-memorable night.
After the players had gathered, I opened the chapel time with prayer and began to unpack my theme. Perhaps you’ve heard a sermon or two about the significance of the number 40 in the Bible, but this talk was specifically about the number that comes after 40.
Here it is in a nutshell:
- After Noah built the ark, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Day 41 came, and the rain stopped.
- After Moses committed murder, he hid in the desert for 40 years. Year 41 came, and God gave Moses a second chance—commissioning him to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt.
- After the Exodus, the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Year 41 came, and a new generation entered the Promised Land.
- For 40 days, Goliath bullied and taunted Israel, just begging for someone to come fight him. Day 41 came, and David stepped up and slew the giant.
- For 40 days, Jonah delivered a message of doom and gloom to the city of Nineveh—that God was going to destroy them because of their wickedness. Day 41 came, and God changed His mind and instead extended mercy because the Ninevites had responded and repented.
- After being baptized in the Jordan River, Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil. Day 41 came, the devil fled, angels showed up, and Jesus launched His monumental ministry.
The pattern is clear. The number 41 represents the dawn of a new day—the hope and promise that if you don’t quit, the rain will stop, the giant will fall, and you will enter your “promised land.” God believes in second chances. Your fulfilled vision is right around the corner. Your 41 will come.
Now fast-forward to the end of the game. Peoria leads by seven points with less than a minute to play. But then Dayton slices through the Pirates’ defense and scores another touchdown. All they need is the point after to send the game into overtime.
Extra points in arena football, like extra points in the NFL, are almost automatic. But not this time. To everyone’s surprise, and the home team’s sheer jubilation, Dayton’s kicker did the unthinkable: He missed!
The stadium was instant bedlam. Our guys had just won a smash-mouth arena football game, an intense battle that ushered them into the championship game in their very first season!
Final score? Peoria 41, Dayton 40. That’s right: 41 to 40.
Let’s be clear: My short chapel talk was not the reason we won that game. But God used it, in that mysterious way of His, to speak to the players, the coaches, and me. I hope He will have spoken to you, as well.
Whether you’re stuck in the storms of life; in serious need of a second chance; stranded in the wilderness of unexpected circumstances or unfulfilled expectations; facing what seems to be an unbeatable giant; or bearing up against unspeakable temptation, I have two words for you: DON’T QUIT!
As much as you may feel like giving up or giving in, please don’t do it. Don’t go under. Don’t throw in the towel. You can hold on and stay strong. Eventually, the rain will stop, an oasis will appear, grace and mercy will be extended, your giant will fall, and a new day will dawn. Forty-one will come.
God can use anyone.
God can use anything.
Even an arena football game.
Even the circumstances in your life.
Trust Him. Forty-one will come.
“Forty-one will come” is a declaration of faith that things will get better, the rain will stop, the sun will shine, the day will break, the page will turn, the answer will show up, the pipe dream will become reality, the Promised Land will be inhabited, and the giant will fall.
We serve a God who is big enough to restore relationships, heal bodies, extend provision, change circumstances, breathe new life into any situation, and wipe out our sin and the shame associated with it.
And not only is God big enough to save you; He also wants to do it. His desire is to deliver, heal, restore, and redeem you. He wants to set you free.
My prayer for you is that you will be challenged, inspired, and encouraged—and more than anything else, that your faith in Christ will make you strong and keep you strong so that, when the dust settles after the storm, you will still be standing.
Chuck Tate is the award-winning author of 41 Will Come (Tyndale Momentum) and the founder and lead pastor of RockChurch, a growing and thriving congregation right here in the heart of Illinois.