Finding God's Winning Spirit

Be Prepared: Part II

November 10, 2014 | Greg Smith | Focus

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Last week, in Be Prepared (part 1), we talked about the importance of preparation as it relates to winning in sports. That discussion revolved around the premise that to be successful in athletic competition preparation is key and the key elements in preparation are knowing the opponent and knowing oneself – a “no brainer” when it comes to sports. Although the same concepts work in our Christian life, application seems to be less obvious.

The first problem, from my Christian counselor's point of view, is that many Christians do not see the Christian life as competition. What I mean here is that many believers do not understand that there is a battle to be won, it is constant and our performance in that battle is important. If we want to live the victorious Christian life (win for Christ) we are going to have to fight for it, compete for it if you will. We will need to prepare daily to achieve it. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25,”… run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Much like the athlete, if we as Christians are not constantly preparing we are apt to lose the battle. This is the essence of Ephesians 6: 11-13,”Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle (Greek word wrestle) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.…”

As we have said one of the most important parts of preparation is knowing your opponent – when applied to the Christian life this means knowing something about Satan. To study God (theology) and not study Satan (Satanology) is an incomplete study of God's revelation to man. To ignore Satan or evil is to ignore Christ, after all, in twenty-five of the twenty-nine passages in the Gospels which speak of Satan; our Lord is doing the speaking. While our need is to dwell on the riches of Christ we also need to “be wise as serpents” when it comes to the character and agenda of our adversary. 

The title “Satan” occurs 53 times in 47 verses in the Bible. The primary idea is one of “adversary – he who stands against God”. Scripture points to Satan as “the opponent of God, of believers, and all that is right and good”. We should note, however, that Satan often appears as an angel of light promising what is supposed to be good (Gen. 3:1f; 2 Cor. 11:14), but this is only a sham to further aid him in his work as the arch enemy and adversary in opposition to God and what is truly good.

I do not have time nor the inclination to go into depth here about Satan, the Devil, Evil and how these relate to the Christian life (I go into more detail in chapter 6 “The Opponent” in Sports Theology) I just want to make the point that we as Christians are up against an opponent who is trying to defeat us.  To quote C.S. Lewis, “Like a good chess player, Satan is always trying to maneuver you into a position where you can only save your castle by losing your bishop.”      

The second important part of preparation in sports and living a victorious  Christian life is knowing yourself.  Not only do we need to understand Satan (the opponent) we must be very clear about our own inward desires, fears and weaknesses. I have always said that Satan’s power is fueled by what we provide him. Those Christians with a weak or under-developed faith are like the man who built his house on sand (Matt. 7:25-27) – They too are destined to be undermined by a weak foundation. We, like the immature athlete, must not become so fixated on the opponent that we forget to address our own areas of vulnerability.

In athletics it doesn't take much to turn victory into defeat. One second, one misstep or one bad choice can make all the difference. It doesn’t take much for Satan to get us off our game either. It can be three days of depression, preoccupation with bills that are due, or relationship problems with our wife, boss or a friend. It can be pre-occupation with self-criticism due to our perfectionism, guilt due to our low self-esteem or frustration due to our need for control.  Even small negative thoughts or doubt can become used to distract us from God's call.

From my chair the biggest problem that I see is that many Christians are not comfortable talking about Satan, evil or the “dark side” of religion in the first place  C.S. Lewis refers to this reluctance to deal with Satan when he says,” “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the Devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and not feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves (the devils) are equally pleased by both…….”

Sports and theology differ when they talk about the ultimate outcome.      Sports talks about winning and theologically we are talking about victory. As Christians we prepare to perform at our best because we desire to serve God knowing that He depends on us to spread His Word. We “play the game” if you will, because we love Christ and want to honor Him. We do not perform to simply win – ultimately, victory has already been won! 

 

1 Peter 5:8

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

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You writes are very inspiration to me Thank
Posted by Tomas Bolaño on
THAT WAS A GOOD ONE THERE. WAY TO GO GREG. THX, TODD
Posted by TODD STEWART on
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