Sometimes sporting events are good analogies of spiritual principles. The Cincinnati Bengals’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs is an example.
You had two teams that some believed were evenly matched. But in reality, Cincinnati was the superior team, except at the quarterback position. If you looked at their rosters, position by position and then the depth in those positions, Cincinnati – on paper – was the more talented team hands down.
When you listened to the analysts and play-by-play announcers, there was no doubt in their minds who was the better team. They talked about Cincinnati’s skilled positions (receivers, tight ends, running backs, etc.) and the speed at those positions and the overall team depth. Cincinnati would win this game even with a backup quarterback.
Pittsburgh also knew Cincinnati was the better team.
Don’t believe me? Then let’s look at Pittsburgh’s strategy.
Cincinnati had two players on defense who played with a great deal of “passion and aggressiveness.” Translation: their emotions would cause them to become reckless and make poor decisions at some point in the game.
One player was a young linebacker with a “fuse so short” he could burst into flames if, for example, he felt an opponent’s blocking was illegal and no flag is thrown.
Pittsburgh knew that.
The other player was a seasoned veteran whose life, before joining the team, was spiraling out of control because of poor off the field decisions.
Pittsburgh knew that too.
Throughout the game Pittsburgh’s offensive linemen and receivers blocked and pushed these two players – just a little past the whistle.
You could see them “jawing” (raising their voices and probably cursing) at these players – just a little past the whistle.
Everyone knows that talking is part of the game and I’m sure Pittsburgh “jawed” at all of the Cincinnati players and vice versa. But you could tell by their reactions that, at some point, the two Cincinnati players took what was being said personally.
Pittsburgh had identified their emotional buttons.
Whatever those buttons were Pittsburgh pushed them over and over again throughout the game. Why? They needed one of these players to become so focused on what was happening that he would forget about his job and the team’s game plan.
Pittsburgh used a strategy that, when executed properly, has predictable results: get into the opponent’s head and cause him to become so emotionally involved in what is happening to him that he self-destructs and hurts the team.
And it worked.
With less than 90 seconds to play and trailing 16-15, Pittsburgh starts deep in its own territory. After getting a first down, the culmination of all the “jawing” throughout the game pays off and changes the outcome of the contest.
Both the young linebacker and seasoned veteran commit 15 yard personal fouls on the same play. The 30 yards in penalties moved Pittsburgh, with seconds to play, from Cincinnati’s 47 to their 17. Pittsburgh kicked a field goal and won the game 18-16 as time expired.
The less talented team had overcome, not defeated, the more talented team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t defeat the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cincinnati Bengals lost because two players had self-destruct.
Satan, the enemy of the soul, works on the body of Christ in much the same way.
He knows that “on paper” he has no shot at victory. He knows that the life that lives in us is capable of, listen to me, never experiencing defeat. He has to convince us to ignore that life and defeat ourselves – to self-destruct – and too many of us are obliged to do so.
Some of you may remember “The Flip Wilson Show.” One of the characters he played was Geraldine. When she got caught doing something wrong her response was “The devil made me do it.” The audience would howl!
But the reality is this: Satan cannot make you do anything if you are a born again child of God. He needs your cooperation in order to make the reality he desires for you a reality in your life. And he does this by “jawing” at you every day, all day until he finds an open door into your life.
Satan wants you to do what the Cincinnati players did.
Because the referee had not addressed “their issues” during the game, the constant “jawing” and resulting frustration led to the young linebacker and the seasoned veteran acting independently and outside the rules of the game and handling things themselves. The result: 30 yards in penalties.
Satan wants you to:
- Act independently of your Heavenly Father’s plan for you.
- Live outside the rules of the kingdom of God, where you are always the victor.
- Handle your business rather than trust your Heavenly Father to be your father.
Let’s look at the one area where he influences Christians the most – finances.
Let’s say that each month when the bills (monthly living expenses) are due you seem to fall short of money. You find yourself paying your bills with credit cards or even skipping some payments. You know that the Bible says “For my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19) and you want to believe it.
But Satan whispers “what the Bible says really isn’t true. After all, it hasn’t worked for you so far, has it?” “What you really need to do,” he says, “is pick up more overtime or, when push comes to shove, go out and find a second job. You have to take care of this because no one is going to help you and you don’t have time to wait on God” – you don’t have time to wait for the referee to call a penalty on the illegal block.
It’s a strategy that is as old as the Garden of Eden.
And like Eve, most of us listen to the enemy of the soul when we think “What can I do to take care of this [whatever “this” is]?” What you are really doing is following Eve’s example of unbelief: “God didn’t really mean what He said.”
Your Heavenly Father is asking you to believe that “the rules of the kingdom” will come to pass in your life if you simply trust Him. (I just heard in my spirit “Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on.”)
Make this your confession
“I am fully persuaded – living in boundless faith – that what My Father says My Father will do.” (Acts 27:25, Romans 4:21)
One final thing.
Remember when you were growing up and another child said something you didn’t want to hear? You took your hands and covered your ears and said something like “la-la-la-la-la-la-la” until you drowned out the sound of the child’s voice.
In Matthew 21:16 Jesus asks “... Yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” He had just healed the blind and the lame in the temple. What He said is more striking when you read the verse in Psalm He’s referring to.
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings has thou ordained strength [“perfected praise” in Matthew] because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger.”
The word “still” means “cause to cease or rest.” When the enemy and the avenger are “jawing” in your ears, the Bible says that our Heavenly Father has given us the strength to shut them up and drown them out if we open our mouths and raise our voices and praise and worship our Lord and Savior!
When the enemy comes, stop and take a moment to praise and worship Jesus. When you do this, the enemy will be unable to cause you to self-destruct because you are no longer focused on the situation and what he’s doing. You have your eyes squarely on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). You have your eyes on your deliverer, your salvation!