Every February when the grocery stores market wings and buffalo sauce, I sense the Super Bowl approaching. Unless the Green Bay Packers are in it, I often have no idea who is.
This year, someone explained to me, it would be the Patriots and the Eagles. The Patriots apparently go to the Super Bowl all the time, and I remembered that last year when I left a Super Bowl party early, they were behind, but when I woke up the next morning, they had won. They have this gift, apparently, of being behind and yet winning at the last minute.
This year, Marnell and I also went to a friend’s house where snacks and Super Bowl were being served, but we weren’t sure that we would stay the whole time since neither of us are sports fanatics. For instance, until a play is replayed with yellow circles and arrows, I usually don’t know what happened.
“The only thing I have an opinion about,” I said as we settled in, “is that it’s high time the Patriots lose.”
As we watched, just what happened last year happened again– the Patriots were behind. But no one doubted their ability to rebound.
Sometime in the third quarter when the game was getting long, I asked Marnell, “Are we staying for the whole thing… or going?”
“Probably,” he said.
Well, we kept watching, and sure enough, toward the end of the game, the Patriots began a blitz down the field and the Eagles began to look tired.
Then, the smallest thing happened: an Eagles player reached up, in a sea of helmets and arms, and nudged the ball out of the hand of the Patriot’s quarterback just as he was reaching back to throw the ball. The Eagles player didn’t actually get possession of the ball–no, he just knocked it out of the hands of the other team. Apparently, this is called a “sack”.
Did he aim it toward his teammate? I don’t know, but it seems impossible in that madhouse that he knew exactly where all his teammates were, and I think he just wanted it out of the quarterback’s hands and hoped by chance it might get to one of his teammates. I think he just did what he saw he should do and hoped for the best.
But when the ball appeared next, it was in the hands of an Eagles player and soon, they won the game.
This I think is a symbol of what happens when Christians band together against the wiles of the devil. The devil is full of strong teams: The Doubters, the Depressioners, the Envyers, etc, and they are good. They love to make you think you’re going to win, and then cut you off at the last minute and steal the trophy.
I was playing the Doubters recently. Doubts came at me about God, about faith, about right and wrong, big beefy doubts in cleats and helmets.
I’m blessed to have strong teammates with me–Marnell, my Laurel Street friends, my mentor Barb, my neighbor Mary, my sisters and family, my aunt Virginia, etc. I talked with some of them about some of my struggles, but I still felt a nagging pack of doubts at my heels whenever I tired to “play”.
Then the morning of the Super Bowl, our pastor spoke about prayerlessness. He pointed out that prayer and faith are closely tied and you almost can’t have one without the other. And I thought of the busyness of the last few months: engagement, wedding, moving sale, and I saw myself. I told my friends that I would take time the very next day to spend time in prayer.
This time of prayer led me to Hannah Whitall Smith, who says in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life that doubts are always from Satan. “Determine to never doubt again” she says, and a flood of relief filled my soul as I felt a sweet closeness to God.
I don’t think our pastor had any idea what my struggles were when we spoke the truth to us. It’s no more possible to keep track of everyone’s struggles in a church than to know where every player is on a football field. I think he just was doing what he felt God wanted him to do at the time, and if he knocked the ball out of the hands of the enemy, he hoped we would be there to catch it.
But because he was faithful in his task, it brought victory, not just to me, but to other people on our team as well, judging by the comments on the message.
When we speak truth, we take the ball from Satan, and give our teammates a chance to win. We aren’t sovereign, and we can’t control what is happening in their lives.
But just as without that sack, the Eagles players could not have gotten the ball, so we need each other, standing, fighting, even when the other team seems about to take the lead.
In a moment, things might change.