For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:10-12)
The concept of sports literally made a game out of facing opposition. Without the trials on the court, gridiron, track or field, the entertainment industry of sport would not exit. Dare I say resistance makes sports fun.
Every athlete has made the choice to be challenged. Whether running hurdles, fighting an opponent in the ring, attempting to score a goal with guards or a wall of linemen in their wake, athletes crave facing obstacles in their field of play. They expect to encounter resistance on offense or defense, pushing or pulling, forward or backward. They train for it; they live for it.
The athlete will respond in one of the following ways when faced with resistance: (1) get pancaked, (2) dodge it, (3) stand firm against it, or (4) push back.
Facing resistance is critical for building strength. Although evading and standing firm are effective tactics when used at the appropriate time, athletes only build strength when they stand firm or push back against resistance. Coaches across sports programs use resistance such as sled training, parachutes, resistance bands, especially weightlifting to prepare their athletes for competition.
There is a proper way to resist in order to keep athletes both effective and healthy while they compete. If a basketball player doesn’t take the charge correctly, he becomes the one at fault. A catcher must be able to maintain control of the baseball and tag the runner while taking the hit to make the out. If an athlete hits a sled or opponent the wrong way or lifts weights improperly, he can get seriously hurt. There is a right and wrong way to face resistance; athletes cannot face opposition using improper form.
Making contact with resistance the right way is the only way to build strength. We embrace resistance in athletics because we know the benefits of it. Muscles break down and when they build up again, they are larger, stronger, faster. The athlete is a better competitor for it.
We meet resistance to our faith every day in life Beyond Athletics. Many come to expect it; Jesus forewarns us of it, “In this world, you will have trouble…” (Jo 16:33). Resistance looks different from person to person from one part of the world to the next. It shows up as unbelief, fear, doubt, procrastination, or an antagonistic perspective of our situation. It could look like religious persecution. It might often look like difficulty having a loving mentality towards people despite who they are, their flaws, quirks and differences. It could be a challenge to your joy, disturbance of your peace, or testing of your patience. We don’t always treat with kindness, dignity and respect an enemy or unappealing people. We don’t always want to do the right thing or stay committed to obligations or people – even God (especially when things don’t go our way.) It’s difficult to be gentle when you’re fuming mad and let’s not even get on the battles we face with temptations and our thoughts. What we say we believe will be challenged by people and life circumstances.
The test for facing resistance in our faith is not the resistance itself, but how we choose to counter the opposition. As it is in athletics, we have options when we face resistance to our faith: (1) Get pancaked, (2) dodge it, (3) stand firm against it, or (4) push back.
Also, as it is in athletics, we must choose the appropriate response and the best way to execute it safely and effectively. “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Co 10:3-4).
Responses to opposition
Get pancaked. This is not truly an option. We read in Hebrews 10:38-39, “’My righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” As children of God, we are never victims of our circumstances. We are victorious – “In all things God works together for the good of those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro 8:28)
Dodge it. We see this strategy a lot in soccer, basketball, football, etc. when athletes maneuver around to evade the opposition. They don’t even give the opposition the chance to push back because they avoid it altogether.
Evading certain types of resistance is a very effective strategy when it comes to our faith.
When Jesus sent out His disciples to tell of His coming, he said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14). Even Jesus didn’t stand and fight or allow Himself to be taken until the right moment in His mission. He escaped because that was the necessary and appropriate response at that time. John 8:59, John 10:39, and Luke 4:29-30.
There are just times when avoiding the resistance altogether is the best strategy for defeating it: be it sexual immorality (1 Co 6:18), godless chatter (2 Ti 2:14), the evil desires of our youth, stupid arguments and quarrels (2 Ti 22-24). It could be because of where we are spiritually, mentally or emotionally at a certain point in time – we all have our weaknesses and tender spots. Be careful not to get baited into conflicts where engaging opposition can do more harm than good. We don’t have to fight every fight, we don’t need to engage every argument, we have the choice to stay away from entanglement.
Stand firm against it. This is extremely important in sports like basketball, baseball and football. Standing firm even to the point of getting run over is actually a stanch strategy in basketball and baseball in particular. A basketball player willingly takes a charge, and a catcher will stand his ground to make a play-at-home plate.
This standing is not a passive strategy as some may erroneously believe. It’s assertive– it’s to stand firm, to hold your ground, to show up again and again. It required confidence, trust, strength and just enough pushback. Our God, in all of His knowledge and understanding of more than what we can see with our own eyes, has given us Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and His Word all so that we can stand (Ep 6).
Standing firm is also counterintuitive and countercultural. It’s a natural response to want to fight back against resistance. Especially for us athletes, we want to fight and push and be in control of everything. Our faith, however, is based on the Word – the written Word and the living personification of the Word. And, from the Old Testament to the New, His words say that the Lord will fight for you. It takes a lot of guts not to take matters into our own hands and to do what’s right in your own eyes The Lord means to fight these spiritual battles on our behalf; He is our greatest weapon against every resistance even those in our own mind. All He wants us to do is stand. (see Exodus 14:14)
Push back. Whether pushing or pulling the athlete exerts opposing force greater than the force against him. The aim here it to take ground or run over the opponent.
Yes, at times, we do have to push back to remain in the faith and be obedient to God. James 4:7 instructs us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Pushing back is about taking ground in our spiritual journey. We must push against mental and spiritual resistance. Even though we cannot see such resistance, we feel in and it has very real physical effects.
Countering resistance starts at the internal level. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we must, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We have to push back against our negative emotions and attitude, discomfort, fears, doubts, insecurities, thought patterns, long-held faulty ideologies, unforgiveness, grudges, and so on. We have to push back spiritually to prevent the attitudes and emotions of others to encroach on our own. This involves growth and development within us, not pushing back or changing others.
Tools for resistance
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Every athlete whose job it is to defend the line, push back, hit, block and tackle, learns that there is a proper way to counter the opposition. If one does not execute correctly, he risks injuring himself and others. Countering resistance to our faith is about taking the right approach. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” However, the verse starts with, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If we are to meet resistance and succeed, we need to go about it the right way. “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Co 10:3-4).
We are not expected to overcome opposition by our own strength. We don’t need to develop willpower. God has gifted us with power via Him to not be overtaken by resistance. Our faith spans all layers of life even beyond the point we receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Our confession of the Christ as Lord is an oath of allegiance, a bending of the knee, a pledge to serve, a surrender to the will and bidding of the Father. (I feel such conviction at the thought that receiving Christ is so much more than an ideal; it’s real life. And, I have to ask myself, “Do I trust Him enough?”)
It is by faith we are saved because of what Jesus did for us. It is by faith we are justified because Christ vouches for us before the Father. But is also by faith that we should live this life because Christ Jesus the Hope of glory lives in us; by faith, His Holy Spirit lives through us. Therefore, it is by faith that we are able to live the life of Godliness having everything that we need to do so. This includes facing resistance.
We counter resistances by surrendering to God. He gives us His power in our weakness, (2 Co 12:8-11); He gives us prayer, community, His Word, His Spirit, His guidance and best of all He gives us Him, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” (Ph 2:13). We live by faith, and it is by His Word and His Spirit that we are able to face resistance well because we believe in God enough that we are willing to surrender our Spirit to His and allow Him to do the heavy lifting even when it comes to obeying Him.
Let’s be honest. We don’t always want to get into this fight of faith. Sometimes we’re afraid of it; we don’t want to deal with the pain. Instead of meeting resistance, we try to avoid it, or we do nothing at all and let it run over us. I’ll be the first say that I’d rather not go through the hassle. But encountering resistance is unavoidable. We can choose to face it with or without God. It is only by facing resistance and pushing back with God that we are able to get stronger and more resilient. Thanks to Jesus, we are not victims in this life. We can embrace the idea of facing resistance, choose to embrace life’s challenges, be strong and courageous because we know how to fight. God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pe 1:3) We have grace that is sufficient (2 Co. 12:19), faith that endures (Ph 2:16), hope that does not disappoint (Ro 5:4-5) and love that is powerful (Ep 3:17-19). And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). Resistance makes you stronger!
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments below.