Know Your Opponent

This Sunday is one of the best days of NFL football for the entire year—with the four best teams squaring off for a chance to compete in the Super Bowl. Chinese philosopher and general Sun Tzu wrote, “If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” Knowingly or unknowingly, this wise counsel has been at the very forefront of preparation for this week’s NFC and AFC championship games. All week long, the coaches and players have been involved in a two-sided approach to the game. The first aspect of this approach is putting in their own game plans—offensively and defensively—for this game and the opportunity it presents. The second aspect, however, is equally critical. They are studying their opposition—looking for tendencies and patterns, strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited during the game. All of this is a necessary part of the preparation these teams must commit to if they want to end up in Indianapolis a couple of weeks from now, playing for the world championship in Super Bowl XLVI.

This approach is much older than the NFL, however, and finds its roots in a wisdom greater than Sun Tzu. The apostle Paul, writing to believers in the early days of the Christian church, wrote: “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Paul is specifically writing about how we manage our relationships, and the challenge is well-founded. Paul roots his words of warning deeply, because he knows we do have a spiritual enemy and that this spiritual enemy has tactics and strategies that are knowable. After warning about the activities of the “wicked one,” John described our enemy’s game plan in three ways: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

By knowing our enemy, we can be prepared for the spiritual assault he may bring upon us—through how he portrays the desirable things of life, through what he puts before our eyes, and through how he massages our egos to want to put self first. These strategies are simple but effective in the hands of our adversary. And they remind us of two critical things: first, we are better prepared to stand firm in the faith if we know where the attacks on our hearts and minds may come from, and, second, we can only ultimately resist in the strength of our God. As John would later remind us: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Knowing our enemy is important, but depending upon the Holy Spirit who dwells within us is the key to applying that knowledge in times of spiritual conflict. These are the realities that we understand when we know our enemy—and ourselves.

Join us tomorrow on Sports Spectrum radio as we discuss the need for a wise, biblical strategy for facing the challenges of life.

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain