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Author/pastor Chip Ingram

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Preparing for Battle
There is conflict in sports, and how you deal with that conflict is based on preparation and knowledge, not only of what you can and can’t do, but also of your opponent.
 
You need to know what your opponent is going to do, what plays you’re going to run, and what your weaknesses are. So, you come up with a specific game plan. This is also true with regard to [the Christian life]. God has a plan for your life, but you have an enemy. That’s where the battle is. So just like in a game, you have to get prepared. You need to know what demonic activity is—what they do, where they attack, and why. That’s the whole reason to understand the armor. When the apostle Paul talks about this armor, he gives insights into where we’re going to need protection in battle (Ephesians 6:13-17).

I remember Tom Landry say that he never selected any high-draft picks that he wasn’t absolutely certain had the potential to become All-Pro. His point was that it wasn’t a physical issue. It wasn’t because some players weren’t fast enough or strong enough. It was mental. In other words, some understood what it would take to become All-Pro.

In the same way, the battleground for a believer walking with Jesus is going to be in the mind. What you allow in your mind is how you prepare for each day, because every day is a battle. So, the coach helps you get ready for the game. And since becoming a Christian, the Holy Spirit is your coach. He wants to take you into God’s play book—His word—and will help you discern who the enemy is.

If you need to get stronger, but you don’t know your high school has a weight room, then you’re going to get knocked around every game. And some guys are in the weight room three or four times a week. Strength doesn’t happen over night. You don’t go in to the weight room on Tuesday and come out Superman on Friday night. It’s a methodical, consistent training to allow God to help you become more and more who He wants you to be.

You also need to be around your FCA Huddle—other players who are in the game—because you never win alone. Even in the individual sports it takes a team, a community, to succeed. So, am I willing to go to the weight room, go to off-season practice, or join a traveling team? Am I willing to put energy into it? It’s about getting better.

The Opponent
The problem is not the teammate with a terrible attitude, or the coach, or the school district. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Romans 12 tells us not to take revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God. If your enemy is hungry feed him; if he’s thirsty, give him a drink. Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. The only way you can do that is to realize that there is a world system, and there is an enemy. His goal is to ruin our testimony and destroy our lives. And he uses people like pawns.

The enemy can use good people in weak moments to inflict pain on us. I mean, think about Jesus during His most vulnerable time. He finally tells the disciples in Luke 9 that he’s going to die on the cross. He asks, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter gets it. But then, in Mark 8, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying He was going to die. Jesus then identifies where Peter’s self-serving comment comes from. It’s Satan. Satan used Peter to try and get Jesus to not do the Father’s will.

So rather than focus our anger or disappointment on another person, realize that we’re all vulnerable, and that our battle is not against flesh and blood.

True Victory
Sports are a platform to allow God to help you become who He wants you to be. But real victory is the Colossians 3:23 principle that says victory is whatever you do heartily unto the Lord, not unto man, for it is from God you will receive the reward.

At the end of the day, only a handful of people who listen to hours of sports talk radio will be able to tell you who won the national championship three years ago in any sport. It doesn’t matter.

Real victory is stated in Romans 8:29. It says that you are being conformed to the image of his son. The process is in Romans 8:28, where it says that if I love God, he’s going to work all things together for my good. That includes injuries, successes, defeats, bad coaches, team injustice, etc.

And I think the point is that [victory] allows you to rest in the battle. It doesn’t produce laziness, it produces confidence. When you feel like you’re trying to be a Christian and people are making fun of you, you’re being tempted, you’re struggling, and things aren’t going your way, remember that you’re on the winning side. First Peter says not to be surprised by the fiery trials that you may have to endure for Jesus. All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. That’s a promise. So like it says in James 1, consider it joy when you encounter trials.