By: Dennis Bates
Football clichés are some of the best sports have to offer. “They came to play today,” “These two teams really don’t like each other,” and on and on. Books could be written listing all of them, and they would be long books. Still, there is one that I really like because it has more universal application than just filler for the dead spots in football games.
It is: “They are playing not to lose.”
Of course, the negative inference of that statement is that the team isn’t playing to win the game. It connotes timid play that involves conservative play calling. For example, sometimes a team will jump ahead of the other team because it is aggressive, innovative and just more excited about playing than the other team is. Then mysteriously, the fire is gone; the innovative play calling become predictable, and the team appears to be going through the motions, trying desperately not to make any mistakes.
That often leads to the dreaded “Prevent Defense,” which is designed to allow teams to run certain plays as long as they are prevented from scoring. As several announcers have correctly pointed out, the prevent defense usually does one thing: it prevents the team that uses it from winning. That’s quite the opposite from its intended result.
On offense, teams often become too conservative in their play selection, trying to avoid making the bid mistake that will cause them to lose the game. Even though they got ahead by being full of energy and taking risks, they now think that they can sit on their lead and quit doing the things that got them ahead in the first place. Invariably that comes back to haunt them.
It occurred to me that we as Christians often adopt similarly flawed strategies. We become Christians and then spend the rest of our lives trying to avoid losing. Instead of doing the things that brought us to a live, spirit filled faith in the first place, we become timid, afraid, and ultimately ineffective, and while I don’t believe we can lose our salvation once we have it, I do believe that James was right when he said faith without works is dead.
Instead of proclaiming our faith boldly as we did at the beginning, we become satisfied to sit back and try not to offend anyone. God’s truth is God’s truth. We should never apologize for it. Misguided worldly concepts such as diversity which try to get us to accept other approaches become our spiritual prevent defenses and our conservative offenses. They don’t work in our spiritual lives any better than their counterparts do on the football field.
For Christians winning is continuing to use God’s play book to run God’s plays aggressively, and defending His truth with goal line stands that don’t budge. God doesn’t have a prevent defense in his play book, nor does He retreat or hope not to lose; He only knows that His way always allows us to win. And He always challenges us to press on, to fight the good fight, to finish the race and to keep the faith.