I recently spoke with a friend of mine who is a football coach, and he was saying how the team was at that point in the season where they were having a hard time staying focused at practice. It is week seven of the season and while there are always a few new wrinkles in the offense and the defense, basically they are doing the same things they have been doing for two and a half months. The team seemed to have kicked it into neutral - and while they were still moving forward, they were no longer moving forward with any purpose. Coach said he understood how they felt because he was feeling the same thing- a certain weariness that sets in and it was becoming difficult to maintain the level of effort and concentration he once felt. This feeling is actually elevated when things are going well. His team is on a 4 game winning streak where they have beaten tough opponents and played better than expected. So the team shows up but they are kind of going through the motions. I know this feeling from my own life - things are going pretty well with my family, my friends, my relationship with the Father, and I begin to coast, I take my foot off of the accelerator, shift into neutral and begin to coast. The thing about coasting is no matter how fast you are going to begin with, as soon as you start to coast you begin to decelerate, to slow down, to shut down, and as soon as you lose your momentum it takes a lot more force to get rolling again. The fact that momentum lost is hard to regain is why every good coach fights so hard during the doldrums of each season to keep his team motivated, focused, and ready for the challenges that lie ahead. He knows he will eventually meet the opponent that requires all the momentum his team can muster if they are to overcome. It needs to be the same way in our personal and spiritual lives. When things are good we cannot afford to take our foot off of the gas. If life has taught us anything it should be to recognize that there is trouble around the next bend and we just may need a vibrant connection with the Father to get through it.
The Israelites were always going through this cycle. They would experience a time of struggle, then turn their hearts to God and He would bring about a great victory. Inevitably the Israelites would begin to coast and before you knew it they would once again be in a mess. I know this is the cycle I find in my own life if on a smaller scale. I struggle, and somewhere in the struggle my Father encourages me, strengthens me and gets me headed, once again, in the right direction. Then when everything seems to be going just fine I become weary and I coast and then I am “surprised” when I find myself in a new mess.
The problem is we peek at the scoreboard. We seem to have the “game” well in hand, our opponent seems defeated, our life (substitute: marriage, job, schoolwork, raising our kids…) is running smoothly. Why shouldn’t we just take it easy? But we must remember that the opposition, while defeated, is constant. Even when Jesus was tempted in the Wilderness, after He defeated the Devil three times, the Devil left Him alone until “a more opportune time” (Luke 4:13). I am not suggesting we need to be freaked out that the Devil is after us - I am merely saying we need to (1 Peter 5:8) 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The guys I know who are great Champions never know the “score”. They are just as tough when they are being blown out as when they are blowing someone else out. They are resolute regardless of the situation. Champions keep doing what they have been called to do and they always continue to improve. We need to keep our hands on the wheel and our foot on the accelerator. This is no time to let up. Now is the time to keep pressing toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!