Playing Like It Counts
“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” -- Ephesians 6:10-12 (The Message)
I help coach tennis at the high school in Elk River. Throughout the season, challenge matches are incorporated into our practices. In a challenge match, the player who wins moves one spot on the ability ladder above the player who lost. In a challenge match, both players will always put forth their best effort. Because their match counts for something.
Sometimes near the end of practice, I’ll match up players to play a few games until it’s time to go home. The question, “Does it count,” will usually come up. My response is always, yes, it always counts.
What I find, is when matches are played that don’t count, players often times will get sloppy, will let their fundamentals slide, and really won’t care whether or not they win or lose. This is not good.
Whenever you play the game, you should always put forth your very best effort, incorporating all of the fundamentals to the best of your ability. If you don’t always put forth your best effort in practice, you won’t play as well as you can when an opportunity for victory in a big match is on the line.
Sometimes that is how we treat our faith. Like it’s something that doesn’t count. Like we don’t need to give it our all or incorporate the fundamentals to the best of our ability, because we think that it doesn’t count right now—that it’ll matter more later. After writing the passage above, Paul continued on by telling the church in Ephesus about how they need to “put on the full armor of God,” so that when the day of evil came, they would be able to stand their ground (Ephesians 6:13, NIV).
When we don’t prepare ourselves spiritually in the day-to-day or bring our best to the table, it can be difficult for us to stand our ground against sin. What we don’t realize is that our daily walk with Christ is the championship match that lasts a lifetime. Would you compete and not put forth your very best effort in a championship match?
Would you go into your major business presentation wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt? Ephesians 6 tells us to arm ourselves with truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation. In the spiritual warfare we face daily, it is these things that help protect us from evil. They are more than words; they are our defenses at all times. The fundamentals we need to be God’s victorious children, both now, and on into eternity.
What does this mean? It could mean that you need to stay away from gossip or deceitful situations and focus on truth. Maybe you need to look inward and see if your life is pleasing to God. You might need to find peace in knowing that He is in control of your finances. It could just be a matter of focusing on what is unseen instead of what is seen (“…for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” – 2 Corinthians 4:18). Perhaps, we need to accept the fact that our salvation is secure in Jesus Christ and that a perfect sacrifice was made on our behalf to pay the debt for our sinfulness.
Bottom line: Our spiritual life is not a game that doesn’t count; it’s for keeps. Be sure to wear your best equipment and bring you’re A-game. All the time.
In His Grip,
Pastor Terry Grzybowski