Friday, April 1, 2016

When the game changes...

 Basketball...the game I loved as a teen! I grew up watching the game, learning about it and playing it. I read books about it and watched it on TV. I remembered stats and scores and strived to be the best. Here in Iowa, we played a different of style of play back in the day - the girls played 6 on 6, which was basically a half-court game. Players were either a guard (defensive) or a forward (offensive), you could only dribble twice and a lot of points were scored. It was a different game, but it was fun and fundamentals were strong.

We always joked with the saying, "Forwards sell the tickets, but guards win the games." With that being said, you can probably guess I was a guard. Defensively, I could utilize my quickness and aggressiveness, but offensively I didn't have a very good shot. This was fine until the end of my junior year when the girls athletic union decided the entire state would switch to 5 on 5.

As one who wanted to play college ball part of me was excited, but my shooting ability created some anxiety. My senior year came and my defense and dribbling skills won me the point guard position. Typically I had more steals than points and assists than shot attempts, but with teammates who could score it wasn't problem. I did go on to play college ball and have spent many of the past 20 seasons coaching in one form or another. The game continues to be part of my life, but today I want to link my experience on the court to one we all experience in life.

I'm currently doing Wendy Blight's "I Know His Name" Bible study (which I highly recommend) and these few lines hit me hard, "God desires that we deepen our walk with Him, to grow spiritually in such a way that we will be able to lead and guide others as they seek to know Him the way we know Him. Satan opposes that growth and unless we prepare for battles with him, both offensively and defensively, he will prevail."

So a little background - a week ago God confirmed I was growing and helping others do the same. I was grateful for confirmation and encouraged in my walk, but days later I was struggling. Friend, I had not prepared for the attack and Satan started pressing from many directions. As I read Wendy's words, I was struck by the words offensively and defensively. While thinking and praying about this, God brought my basketball experience to mind.

Clearly, I was a defensive player and I'm a defensive minded coach, who loves teams that apply pressure and force turn-overs. When it comes to offense, I've always kind of struggled...I could take it to the hoop with the best of them in our backyard, but when the stands were full, you could count on me making the pass. I've never been very aggressive or confident and that's a detriment when it comes to scoring in a game and also when fighting off a spiritual attack.

The Bible certainly talks about defense and protecting ourselves - Ephesians 6 is all about the armor of God! Friend, it's critical that you and I put on the belt of Truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, helmet of salvation and hold the shield of faith! These will all help when Satan attacks, but we need to counter as well. The way we do that is by using the sword of the Spirit - His living and active Word.

I know this, but I started to think about it more with my basketball mind. When we switched to the full-court game, coaches spent time with all the former defensive players trying to teach us how to shoot. I still use the acronym today when I'm instructing others - when it comes to shooting you need B.E.E.F. You have to have good Balance, your Eyes have to be focused on the target, your Elbow must be aligned with your body and you have to Follow-thru.

In a way, I think we can connect this to our spiritual offensive attack - we need to be building our lives on the foundation of faith, our eyes must be on Christ, our walk must line up with His and knowing the right Scriptures and Truth is not enough. We MUST follow-thru.

When it comes to God's Word, we have to abide in it. That means we read it, study it, meditate on, memorize it and pray it. Doing this Sunday morning at church isn't enough. Nor is starting your day with Scripture. We must be in communion with Christ constantly...Satan can and will attack at anytime. When he does, we need to be ready. Defending ourselves is good, but we need to attack as well.

A few recent March Madness games come to mind as I think about this...Iowa State was playing Virginia and within minutes they were down 2 - 12. For the rest of the game, the Cyclones played even, but they were never able to overcome the initial deficit. Satan loves to use this strategy in my mind...he feeds me one lie and I take it. While I'm wrestling with it, he feeds me another and I fall deeper and deeper into the pit. You may know, the farther we fall the harder it is to get back up. Let's learn a lesson from our Clones and be ready...the game starts now!

Another Iowa team provides a second powerful illustration - the UNI Panthers were up 14 with a minute to go and Texas A&M fans were leaving the building. Nearly everyone thought the outcome was determined. Things changed when the opponents put on the press. The Panthers got rattled, made mistakes and the lead slipped away. As a fan that was frustrating to watch and as a former player my heart hurt for them, but as a Christian I realize I've experienced the same. A week ago I felt like victory was certain, but then Satan started to pounce. He messed with my thinking, created stress and chipped away at my confidence in Christ.

I've listened to a few UNI players talk about the game and they each mention things they could have done differently. They are determined to learn from this and I'm committing to do the same...last night I was talking with my husband about this - how I see a pattern. I step out and do something for God, leave my comfort zone and trust Him, walk in faith and experience His faithfulness...He equips me, empowers me and encourages me, but then Satan attacks and leaves me feeling defeated, depressed and full of doubt. Job didn't disagree with this realization at all.

I encourage you to think about recent spiritual battles you've been involved in - do you see a pattern? Satan knows our weak spots - how does he attack you? How do you react when he does? Do you need to be more defensive or offensively minded? These are questions we each must answer individually, but I believe God will give us insight and direction as we do!

One last word of advice from my basketball minded husband as well - "Remember you don't have to beat the press by yourself." The coach in me knows how true that statement is - passing the ball almost always works better to beat a press than trying to dribble through it. He encouraged me to let him know and he'd do what he could to help. Friend, if you have a husband, child or friend who will pray, let them know when Satan is on the attack. Basketball is a team game and so is life!!

Friend, I don't know how life is changing for you - perhaps it's a physical thing, maybe it's a relationship or where you live. When things change, we must adjust and do what it takes to learn the role we must now live. Sometimes it's not really the game that changes at all, but instead our understanding of it and when that happens may we take what we know and apply it to how we live!

May we remember this as the battle continues -

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion 
looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, 
because you know that the family of believers 
throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1 Peter 5:8-9

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. 
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."
 2 Corinthians 10:4

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." 
Romans 8:37

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
2 Corinthians 15:57


  1. I needed this today! Thank you!!!

    1. Great to hear! I always pray He'll bring the ones who need what He puts on my heart!