Dear Reader, please stick with me as I take us through a “sports analogy.” I know some people appreciate these, and then some folks probably do not. But if you fall in that latter category, I ask you to bear with it. I believe it has an important point at the end.
As this article gets uploaded onto the online Citizen on Sunday, January 28, there will be later today two very important football games for the pros in the NFL. The winners of these two games will advance to the Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions have traveled to San Francisco to take on the 49’ers and the Kansas City Chiefs have journeyed to Baltimore to battle the Ravens.
Both the 49’ers and the Ravens are favored to win, but not just because they seem to have a slight edge in players, but also because they both are playing in their home stadiums with their home fans and the oppressive chaos those fans can inflict upon the visiting team. The Lions and the Chiefs will definitely be in hostile territory.
Sticking with the football part of this story, we need to consider what both the Lions and the Chiefs most certainly have done to prepare for this hostility and chaos.
I believe I know enough about football, arm-chair coach and quarterback that I am, to unveil ten quick preparations and actions the visiting teams have certainly employed as they prepared to face the dreaded “away game,” and still pull out the victory.
1. Have complete trust in their Head Coach.
2. Study the playbook repeatedly.
3. Study the opponent to analyze their strengths and weaknesses
4. Have a solid game plan in place.
5. Practice, practice, practice, and even pump deafening crowd noise over loud speakers to get used to the opposing fans.
6. Trust their teammates to “be on the same page.”
7. Plan to stick to what they do best, yet be ready to make adjustments as they figure out their opponent.
8. Be assured that the game does not change, the field and the goal of the game remain the same, whether in friendly or hostile environment.
9. Plan confidently to take the hostility as a healthy challenge and produce the best outcome.
10. Even though it’s an away game, be ready to focus, be confident, be resilient, and plan to win.
Now, let’s transition to my point.
I read an article online last week on the current reality of living a Christian life and giving witness to Christ in our daily lives. I couldn’t go back and find the article, but the author made the analogy that to do that in our present culture is “playing every game as an away game.”
Imagine. “Playing every game as an away game.” The Lions and the Chiefs will have a hard time in their away games today, but next year they’ll get to play at least half their games at home.
Much of our current culture has turned not only blasé but even now hostile to our Christian faith. Many want to push us Christians and our influence to the fringes of our society. Many believe it is wrong and even hateful to try to evangelize and bring others into the Christian faith. A significant number mock our Christian heritage and our Christian ethics. Sundays are not sacred. Clergy are less respected or not respected at all. Music, movies, entertainment, and some technologies belittle our Judeo-Christian beliefs.
You could add to that list with your own experiences.
So, it runs parallel that our culture creates an “away game” atmosphere, imposing oppressive chaos and a hostile environment for us Christians. Therefore, we Christians are in the reality of “playing every game as an away game.”
So be it. So what?
Without getting too corny, let’s go back over the ten preparations and actions that we, as the “visiting team,” need to employ, so as to “still pull out the victory.”
1. Have complete trust in our “Head Coach.” We trust in The Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Trust completely. He is the eternal and all-powerful One.
2. Study the “playbook” repeatedly. The Bible is God’s eternal Truth for our salvation in Jesus Christ. Through the Bible the Holy Spirit leads and guides us. We study the Bible repeatedly to know it well.
3. Study the opponent to analyze their strengths and weaknesses. We “study” the devil and learn his evil and cunning ways by which he tries to lead us away from God. We analyze our non-Christian community to find ways to win them for Christ.
4. Have a solid game plan in place. God’s plan of salvation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is His perfect plan for all humanity. We take this plan to the world around us with the full assurance that God’s plan is by far the best plan for all.
5. Practice, practice, practice, and even practice against the “noise” which the opposition will use against us in the real battle. Living out our faith, practicing our faith, every day over and over again readies us to meet the opposition of an adversarial society. Being faithful in worship Sunday after Sunday prepares us to witness even in a hostile environment.
6. Trust your teammates to “be on the same page.” We Christians need to find “teammates” with whom we are in common faith and share a common Biblical world view, and join together to encourage and strengthen one another.
7. Plan to stick to what we do best, yet be ready to make adjustments as we perceive new obstacles. We never compromise on the Word of God. We stick to it. It sticks to us. Then, when we come upon a new problem, we can be ready with The Word which will give clarity, power, and meaning to any new situation.
8. Be sure that the true meaning of life here and life in eternity never changes. Keeping our faith in Jesus and receiving His eternal gift of heaven is forever the “bottom line” of existence, whether among friends or foes.
9. Plan confidently to take the hostility of our modern culture as a healthy challenge. Hostility does not defeat us. Rather, we come up against it and, receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond with our best witness and our bravest faithfulness.
10. Even though it’s an “away game,” be ready to focus, be confident, be resilient, and plan to win. All this happens only at the good and gracious power of God at work within us. We claim it in confidence.
And, oh by the way, unlike the Lions and Chiefs who still don’t know if they’ll win today, we Christians know we have already won. Christ won our victory by His cross and empty tomb. His victory is our victory.
“Away game?” Sure. But “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
Can I get an “Amen” to that? You bet!
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-eight year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He offers his preaching and teaching pastoral ministry to any group seeking or needing a Christ centered, Biblically based, and traditionally grounded sermon or teaching. Reach him at email@example.com.]