Whether you realize it or not, you are a warrior—one enlisted in a great battle. As a Christian, the moment you pledged your allegiance to Jesus Christ and became a member of God’s Kingdom you became a sworn enemy of the devil and his armies of darkness. And every day, you wage war against those armies of evil. The question is, are you armed and ready?
“Regardless of the opposition we face in the world, because our Lord was and is victorious, so are we. But, in order to claim these victories, we must be connected to Christ.”
The apostle Paul described this epic battle in his New Testament letter to the Ephesians. “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (- 12). He illustrated the concept of spiritual war not to frighten his audience, but to help them realize how vital it was to prepare themselves for the fight. And he was speaking to you.
Every day and everywhere around the world, an invisible battle ensues— a raging spiritual war between God’s forces of light and Satan’s forces of darkness. The Bible warns us that our enemy roams the earth like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). But it also says that when you become a member of God’s “team,” you gain guaranteed victory. You win just by signing up (Psalm 60:12). From that point, you take orders from an all-powerful Commander— one who has gone before you and defeated the enemy by conquering death (1 Corinthians ).
Know Your Opponent
As an athlete, you prepare for “battle” against other teams every day. You already know the ins and outs of your sport, who your opponent is, and how to prepare for competition. But, if you are new to the concept of spiritual warfare, there are some things you need to know.
First, realize that you are a member of an army led by God, and that He has a plan to use you in this war (Jeremiah 29:11). But where is this battle, and how do you fight what you can’t see? Just who is the opposition?
In the book The Invisible War, Pastor Chip Ingram describes this great eternal fight and the evil one who leads it: “Our foe is formidable, and his goal is to destroy us and discredit the cause of Christ.”
Ephesians 6 emphasizes this point, that you must know your enemy. “It’s just like in a game: you have to get prepared,”Ingram, also the president of the Walk Thru the Bible ministries, told STV. “You need to be mentally aware of your opponent and know the other team, their strengths and weaknesses.”
Bill Buckley, an FCA multi-area director serving on the frontlines of spiritual battle in the Katrina-tornGulfCoast of Mississippi, agreed, saying that any team would be foolish not to study and know its opposition. “Get into the film room and study,” he challenged. “As believers, we’ve got to know the enemy. That’s not to say that we pursue demonology; we pursue Christ. But we’ve got to know how the enemy attacks us and be familiar with his strategies, which are outlined in the Bible.”
“The second you profess that you are a witness for Christ, you are on the frontlines, and you’re making Satan nervous. Once you ask God for strength, and you put on the armor, you’ve got to expect the attack.” – FCA’s Jarret Myers
According to Ingram, the forces of darkness have three key methods of attack as outlined in 1 John 2:15-16: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
“There is a world system that [the devil] has orchestrated,” he said, “and it’s made of success, looks, sex, hedonism, etc. And all those things are going to lure you away from God.”
Living in this world, you can clearly see examples of things that appeal to our flesh and eyes—things that cause men and women to stumble and fall. Magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Playboy top circulation charts; sex is used as a powerful advertising tool; blockbuster movies celebrate broken marriages, scandal and murder. And the world is entertained.
But it is more than just an external battle fueled by magazines and movies. “There’s also an inward battle,” explained Ingram. “We have a capacity inside us that is drawn to evil, even though Christ lives in us.”
Have you ever wondered why anger spreads inside you when your teammate is recognized for talent instead of you; or why revenge stirs in your heart when you are wronged? The inherent wickedness passed down from Adam and Eve, as Ingram stated, dwells inside each of us.
The apostle Paul described this internal battle to the Galatians. “For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want” (v. 5:17).
“Our hearts are going to be drawn to the world,” said Ingram. “Your enemy is the father of lies (John ). He’s going to give you lies about relationships, success, God’s love and who you are.”
It is important, however, to remember that there is weakness to the enemy. Serving full-time on staff with FCA in Southern California, Jarret Myers, former football coach at AzusaPacificUniversity, has come to recognize a major flaw in the enemy’s attacks. “While God is omniscient—He knows everything about us, our future and our past—Satan is not. He only knows about our past. But, there again, he’s going to use that against us. He will hold up that mirror of who you were and tell you, ‘You’re not good enough,’ and ‘You can’t do it.’
“He uses the power of comparison,” Myers continued, “and that happens in sports a lot. You might compare yourself to someone who is good, or not as good, and then get a false sense of who you are.”
Know Your Coach
Imagine that your team is preparing for a big game. You’ve watched hours of film. You know the size and speed of your opponent, how they move the ball and where they score. However, you haven’t spent any time practicing the game plan your coach drew up for you. On top of that, he’s been holding meetings, but no one has been showing up. When game time comes, you and your team have no idea what’s going on. Are you surprised when you lose?
The same scenario can manifest itself in the battle against our enemy if we are not prepared. If we want to win, we have to know what the Bible says. Only by reading and studying the word of God will we find out the wonderful truth that the One who lives in us (God’s Holy Spirit) is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
“The biggest, boldest step you can take against the enemy is to know your identity in Christ,” encouraged Buckley. “When you know His power and love, and you’re living for Him, it is the most powerful thing you can do.”
Armor of God
Belt of Truth: Just as a Roman soldier’s belt anchored his physical pieces of armor, God’s truth secures all the pieces of our spiritual armor.
Breastplate of Righteousness: Guard your heart with the righteousness that is credited by faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ.
Sandals of Peace: Proper footwear provides perfect balance and readiness. Our feet must be fitted with footwear that comes from the gospel of peace.
Shield of Faith: Satan shoots lies at us like fiery arrows. Our faith in Jesus Christ stands like a shield, deflecting the devil’s attacks.
Helmet of Salvation: The helmet protects the most important part of the body. Our minds are protected by the redemption of our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Sword of the Spirit: We fight with specific Scriptures from the word of God, which is the Bible illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
For more on the armor of God check out God’s Game Plan, The Athlete’s Bible. Visit fcagear.com.
At the beginning of the 2007 NCAA men’s basketball season, the 2006 National Champion Florida Gators had targets on their backs; every team wanted to beat them. Gator Head Coach Billy Donovan gathered his team and told them that they were not going to spend the 2007 season defending their title. They had nothing to defend. They already had claimed that victory and would compete in 2007 as the national champions they already were.
Donovan’s simple truth is practically scriptural. Just as he knew that no team—regardless of who beat them in the coming season—could take away their 2006 National Championship title, as followers of Christ, we also go into battle with a victory that already has been given to us.
“You’ve already won,” encourages Ingram. “You are forgiven; you’ve been redeemed; you are adopted. Those things that you want the world to give you already belong to you [through Christ].”
Regardless of the opposition we face in the world, because our Lord was and is victorious, so are we. But, in order to claim these victories, we must be connected to Christ.
“If you’re not somehow connected to the heart of your Coach, you’ll never be a champion,” said Buckley. “But, if you connect with His heart, He’ll show you how to do battle.”
Longtime FCA friend and supporter Joe White, current president of Kanakuk Kamps, has actively served in God’s army by reaching thousands of young athletes for Christ every summer since 1976. During this time, he’s counseled them on how to actively prepare for battle.
“Since you are a Christian, the enemy is coming after you with everything he’s got,” warned White. “Ephesians says you’ve got to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. What that means to young athletes is that they need to be completely sold out in their hearts to the fullness of Christ, continually emptied of themselves. You can’t think that you are going to be able to avoid falling into Satan’s temptations. Only if the Holy Spirit is in your heart can you avoid being overpowered.”
Added Ingram, “Just as a coach helps you get ready for the game, the Holy Spirit—now your coach—wants to take you into God’s playbook, His word. That will help you discern who the enemy is and also understand the playing field, which is the world.”
Once we know that we’ve been placed in the middle of a spiritual war, that we’re assured victory through Jesus Christ, and that it is important to obey our heavenly Coach, we then need to know what equipment we’ve been given in order to fight the battle.
Ephesians references the “full armor of God.” But, if you love God and know that the Holy Spirit lives in your heart, why do you need armor?
“Imagine going into a football game with no shoulder pads and no helmet,” said Ingram. “All the while, you’re saying, ‘I love my school! I really want to win!’ However, the other team has pads and helmets, and you get whacked! Then you say, ‘This isn’t fair. Why doesn’t God care about me?’ Well, you didn’t prepare.”
“You’ve got all you need. You fight from victory, not for victory.”–Chip Ingram
Paul compared a Christian’s armor to the battle equipment of an ancient Roman soldier. He listed six essential pieces and related them to spiritual characteristics: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. While the first five are defensive (see page 25), the sixth is our offensive weapon, and that is God’s word.
Second Corinthians 10:4 reminds us that our weapons are not of the world; they are more powerful than that. They can demolish strongholds in our lives and in the lives of others. They also empower us to stand against Satan, and cause him to flee (James 4:7).
But with great power comes great responsibility. Once you know your equipment and how to use it, God expects you to fight.
“The second you profess that you are a witness for Christ, you are on the frontlines, and you’re making Satan nervous,” explained FCA’s Myers. “Once you ask God for strength and you put on the armor, you’ve got to expect the attack.”
This is why preparation is so important. Just as an athlete prepares for a game by practicing and training for strength and speed, a Christian must also prepare to stand firm when confronted with spiritual opposition.
“Are you as committed to being a great Christian as you are to being a great athlete?” challenged Ingram. “Are you prepared to win in the Christian life? Then you’ve got to meet with God. Begin to write down what He tells you, read His word, memorize key verses and hang around with other Christians who are committed.
“You’ve got all you need,” he continued. “You fight from victory, not for victory. You are going to be on that top stand with the Lord receiving the crown of victory. But this is not a game; this is life and death, and it’s for eternity.”
Game Ready: Get Up, Gear Up, Step Up
The 2007 FCA Camp theme comes from Ephesians 6:10-11: “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the devil.”
Says Debbie Haliday, the regional FCA Camp director for Southern California, regarding the theme: “It’s important to introduce that there is an enemy and there is a battle, and to say that God gives us a way to stand firm. The power of having Huddles at camp is that they will be around other kids who are going to stir up discussion and steer them toward the belt of truth. It will equip them to discern and help them understand by talking it through.”
Spiritual Warfare Resources Spiritual warfare is a big topic. If you’d like more information, Chip Ingram’s book The Invisible War is a great place to start. Visit walkthru.org for study guides based on Ingram’s Invisible War sermon series.
Also, check out sharingthevictory.com to read more from the STV interviews with Chip Ingram and Joe White, as well as FCA’s Bill Buckley, Jarret Myers and Debbie Haliday. Learn about God’s plan for your life and how to stand boldly against the enemy’s attacks.
CHIP INGRAM is the president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, as well as the teaching pastor on the weekly radio broadcast, Living on the Edge. He also is a best-selling author with works including The Invisible War: What Every Believer Needs to Know about Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare; Holy Ambition: What It Takes To Make A Difference for God and I am With You Always.
After accepting Christ through FCA, Ingram continues to support the ministry by speaking at FCA events, most recently February’s President’s Weekend in Boca Raton, Fla.
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com
, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Courtesy of Peter Hobbs and Walk Thru the Bible Ministries