y favorite spectator sport is (American) football. I find the intricate complexities of the game most fascinating. It takes an extraordinary amount of teamwork—more than most other sports.
Football in America had its beginnings in 1869 with the first-ever college soccer football game between Princeton and Rutgers.1 From that first game of rugby on November 6, American football was born.
Today the National Football League, the backbone of professional football, is a multibillion dollar industry. The league is composed of 32 teams carrying 53 players. Each team is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These teams rake in millions of dollars annually from TV contracts, corporate partners, advertising, and sales of tickets, concessions, and merchandise.
The popularity of the sport continues to grow each year. In 2005 nearly 21.8 million fans attended professional football games in the United States, and the television global audience for the 2006 Super Bowl game reached 141.1 million.2
The NFL now operates internationally with NFL Europa, which is composed of six teams in Germany and The Netherlands. There are also plans to bring NFL games to China and the United Kingdom.
The interest in football is so intense that many fans follow the sport year-round. A typical calendar may look like this. In late February the free agency begins, in which teams can acquire veteran players (who are declared free agents). In April there’s the college draft, in which rookies are selected. May brings a series of training camps that last through early August. In August the preseason games start, with the regular season opening in September. In January the postseason (playoffs) begins with the season climaxing with the Super Bowl in early February.
For me, the most fascinating part of the game is the enormous amount of planning and preparation needed to be successful. Eleven people must perform their jobs with precision for the team to be effective. That’s why players must report to camp with their bodies in tip-top condition. It’s expected that players continually condition themselves with body-building regimens.
In training camp the players get their bodies into football shape through contact drills and exercises. They also focus on honing their techniques and learning numerous plays. While the players jell as a team, coaches and scouts gather and distill information to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of opponents to develop effective game plans.
In a typical week the coaches focus on one opponent. Still many coaching staffs work all through the night, evaluating team performance, devising offensive and defensive game plans, and implementing the plans in practice sessions.
It’s a fact that while some teams may have superior talent, usually the winners are the teams that are best prepared.
Our Spiritual Opponent
As Christians, we are facing an opponent who is well prepared, one who knows our every move. He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, and our tendencies. He has studied us since we were conceived in our mothers’ wombs, and he’s had a lifetime to game-plan our downfall.
The Christian journey is a battle with no off-season. The Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whomever he can devour (1 Peter 5:8, KJV).
That’s why we must always be prepared. The Bible outlines a comprehensive game plan for our eternal victory over evil. On defense, we must clothe ourselves with God’s protective armor. We must put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and take up the sword of the Spirit.
These are the weapons of our warfare. With these weapons we can defend ourselves against Satan’s relentless onslaughts. But God has a game plan that’s more than defensive. He wants us to take the ball and go on offense.
As we diligently study His playbook, the Bible, God will order our steps and guide our path. With consistent study we will discover thousands of promises available to us as we move down the playing field of life.
Each morning we should huddle up with God in prayer, and be responsive to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. If we listen to His promptings, He will direct us and give us opportunities to build up His kingdom.
He has given us a game plan that will take us from this world to the next.