We are in a war. The culture we are living in has, sadly, become accustomed to war. From Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s to the multiple campaigns in the Middle East since 9/11. Many would say we are in a different kind of war. Some call it a political war, others call it culture or societal war. Media pundits call it government overthrow attempts, riots, and protests. Whatever you call it, none of it accurately describes the nature of the war with which we are engaged.
We are in a war for eternity. We are in a fight for our soul. As I watched the Alabama Crimson Tide (Roll Tide) face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Championship Monday night, I was reminded of the fight. Here are 5 football lessons for the faith:
1.) Know your enemy: Following both teams’ wins in their respective playoff games, each team set its sights on identifying strengths and weaknesses with their opponent. We must do the same if we are to win the battle against Satan. We must identify the strengths of the devil in our life and his weaknesses. By identifying the sins we struggle with then we identify his strengths and create a plan to counteract them. By identifying our strengths we learn what we can rely on to give us the advantage and necessary weapons to defeat his attacks. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8)
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8)
2.) Identify your team: One person does not win a championship and one individual does not get to heaven alone.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Alabama had this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Devonta Smith, as they entered into battle. Smith did what he has done best all year. He put points on the board. But, he could not snap the ball, throw it or pass it to himself, block defenders, and run all at the same time. He had a team. Likewise, we do not gain eternal life without help. Jesus Christ, first and foremost, died for our sins. He did what we could not do. He made a way for forgiveness and eternal life. Now, it’s up to us to take the ball and run. We are to be obedient to the sacraments, obedient to the commands of Christ, and encourage others to do the same. We also have the angels and saints cheering us on and walking side by side with us.
3.) You will get hit and injured: You cannot play football and expect to not get hit. Sometimes those hits will result in injuries. The same is true in this spiritual war we are all in. We cannot expect to be alive and not get hit from the enemy.
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19)
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (Romans 4:8-9)
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones suffered a leg injury in the second half of the game but continued playing while in pain and limping. However, the determination of Jones to finish the championship game and lead his team to victory overshadowed the pain of the injury. Our determination to please the Lord, be obedient to God, and to enter into eternal life should overshadow any attacks, hits, or injuries we suffer in this life.
4.) The enemy will suffer some defeats and injuries: Satan hates obedience to Christ. He hates obedience to the Church. He hates obedience to the Sacraments. When we are living a sacramental life, we are hitting the enemy where it hurts.
Ohio State was dealing with its own share of injuries as their quarterback Justin Fields entered into the championship game still suffering from an injury in the playoffs against Clemson. However, Fields said he was “healthy enough” to play against the undefeated and top ranked Alabama team.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Our armor is not that of helmets and pads. Our armor is truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace and our salvation. Our armor is Our Blessed Mother, the angels and saints, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Sacraments.
5.) The enemy will never quit: With the final minutes of the game ticking away, I watched as Ohio State’s Justin Fields led his team down the field with the same determination of the first snap. The team continued to play with fight, heart, grit and a will to finish strong. With the score reflecting an impossible scenario for the Buckeyes to pull off an upset, they still fought. They did not slow down and did not quit. Our enemy will not slow down or quit either. In fact, like the Buckeyes’ last few drives consisting of speed, intensity, and urgency, the devil knows his time is limited and he knows he will not win. However, he is determined to take as many souls with him to hell as he can before the final buzzer sounds.
Stop looking at the distractions around you and begin fighting. Sadly, life is much more than a football game. Our eternal destiny will last much longer than the legacy of any football team. It’s more than a trophy and a record. This is life. This is eternal life. This is the war we are all in and the one we must win.