For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
My son is a wrestler now. A few weeks ago, I went to his first meet and came away with a new appreciation for Ephesians 6:12. In the verse, Paul is reminding us who the actual opponents are, but the verb wrestle reminds us the nature of the struggle we are in.
It is intense. Wrestling can’t be accomplished from the sidelines. All of the boys, from the 6-year-olds on up, were locked in mini battles of strength and strategy. Every match was personal, hands-on. They gritted their teeth, their muscles strained, their faces reddened and they came away sweaty. All after 3 one-minute rounds. If a boy let up, even for a split second, his opponent sensed it immediately and usually seized that opportunity to pin him.
If we decide to root out the sin in our lives, or engage the evils of society, don’t be surprised if things quickly intensify, requiring your full effort. Those battles can’t be waged by proxy, either. We have to engage. In competitive wrestling, points are deducted for failing to engage the opponent. If we don’t step up, we lose more than points.
It is exhausting. Even though the actual matches were just a few minutes out of the day, nobody had to tell my son when it was bedtime. He had his lights out before 9 p.m. It was more than just the physical exertion. There was mental preparation, there was a tremendous emotional investment and there plenty of nerves to deal with. I saw my share of tears from competitors of all sizes, more often from frustration and disappointment than physical pain.
We see the same thing. Every time we try to do the right thing, it becomes a battle. We mentally prepare for each situation (sometimes, that’s called worry). We pour our hearts out. Sometimes we get thrashed. It’s no wonder we often feel wiped out spiritually, emotionally and mentally. But yet, we rarely take the time to rest and regather. That’s asking for burnout or real damage to our faith.
The boys who listened to their coaches were more successful. Some boys entered their matches convinced they knew what they were doing and didn’t need any help. Other boys soaked in every word the coaches told them before the match and during. Even when they lost, they had a better match and gave their opponents a tougher time.
The Scriptures are full of instructions on how to deal with evil in and around us. We can toss them aside and forge ahead the best way we know how and face quick, humiliating, painful defeat. Or we can take those words to heart, imitate Jesus and follow His ways.
The boys found extra energy when the crowd got behind them. We scanned the mats to see if there were any of Alan’s teammates to cheer for.
We are no different. If we have the prayer and moral support of others, it’s easier to keep battling. We need to commit to supporting each other as well. One of my favorite moments of the day was when one of the 8-year-olds asked Alan how his first match went. Alan said he got pinned. The other boy put a hand on Alan’s shoulder, “Get ’em next time.” You can be sure, there will be a next time. Don’t shy away from offering a word of encouragement, dropping a note or breathing a prayer.
Of course, in competitive wrestling, the kids are on their own. The coach has instructed them, practiced with them and prepped them, but once they step on the mat, it’s all on the individual boy’s shoulders. Jesus doesn’t leave us to fight our battles alone. He equips us, and He promises to wrestle with us, even through us. More than that, the final victory has been secured.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33