I recently received an e-mail from a friend, and I asked for permission to share it on my blog. I think you will be encouraged and challenged by it.
Our kids play soccer each spring. The boys have played for several years, but this is only our daughter’s second season playing soccer. While the boys are competitive and really enjoy the game, we have had quite a different experience with our daughter. Her original motivation for playing soccer was the Gatorade that the boys would get after each game. We have spent the last few months watching her suffer through game after game. She frequently does not pay attention to what is going on in the game and often does not even know where the ball is in play at any given time. She is not at all assertive or aggressive on the field. I also believe she does not have a good understanding of the game and is uncertain when she should defend and stay in her area, and when she should be on offense and pursue the ball.
Her coach often puts her in the back at defense because she will not run after the ball. He has also frequently put her in the goal, counting on the other players to keep the ball away from that end of the field. Occasionally, she will attempt to kick the ball if it comes directly towards her. In the goal, if she is paying attention, she may try and block an incoming ball. Most of these efforts are half-hearted and unsuccessful.
We have spent many games yelling “watch the ball”, “go get it”, “get ready to stop the ball”, and “keep your eyes on the ball”. The coach will also often call out directions, but more often than not –since she is not paying attention to the game anyways –she does not realize that the directions are directed towards her. Frequently she looks annoyed that the game is taking so long and she wants it to be over. Needless to say, we love her and she has so many wonderful character qualities, but when it comes to soccer, she is apathetic and does not completely understand the game.
Saturday morning was no different than any of her previous games. I called out encouragement when she attempted to move towards the ball and reminders to “watch the ball” when I knew she was not paying attention. When she was in the goal, I felt terrible each time she let a goal get past her after the other kids worked so hard to stop it.
As we started the 4th quarter, I began to pray that God would show me what I needed to learn in this situation, or what the purpose for this season had been. As I sat watching that quarter, God began to speak in that still small voice. He opened my eyes so that I could see “the battle”.
As the other kids on the team played as hard as they could and fought and strived to score and to keep the other team from scoring, our daughter was distracted. She was in “the battle”, but not aware of it. The words “engage in the battle” kept echoing in my mind. God was showing me that this is what we as Christians often do. We have been placed on the field for spiritual battle for different seasons in our lives. God is wanting us to engage in the battle, but many times we don’t even know there is a battle going on. He often shouts outs out directions and encouragement, but since we are not aware of the battle, we don’t realize that those words are directed at us. I know He loves us, but how sad it must make Him when He sees our team suffering because we won’t engage or we are unaware that we are supposed to be fighting. Does He wonder at our motivation for being there in the first place? Is the motivation victory and glory for God, or some other insignificant thing (like Gatorade)? Does He sigh when He sees us getting frustrated that the battle is taking too long and we have other things we would rather be doing? When the battle actually comes to us, because we did not realize it was going on and have not been preparing for it, we are ineffectual- just as she was ineffectual at stopping a goal or meeting an opposing player on the field when the ball came directly to her.
That morning, I started to wonder what battle fields had God placed me on? What battles have I been blind to? What fellow believers were suffering because I had not been engaging in the battle? Several things came to mind, but I think God is still in the process of revealing those battles to me. Your sermon this morning was a very clear reminder to me that God is at work (as He always is). Your words echoed so many of the phrases and words that God had whispered to me the day before at soccer. I will continue to be praying that God will reveal those battles that need engaging in my life and in the life of our church.
Excellent letter! I remember that sermon because you encouraged us to face our battles head-on. And I thought to myself, “have I not been doing that for these last years? If Dave’s battle is his health issues, has he not been facing them head-on in hope of finding a solution?” So I determined to face current battles head-on. It’s a scary thing…but I remind myself that “the battle is the Lord’s.” And I lift my shield and sword a little higher.
Thanks for the great sermon!