The looming football season brings this thought with it: while the offense tends to get the vast majority of the glory and headlines and fans, it’s primarily the defense that wins games and especially championships.
Because if a team can’t keep the opponent from scoring touchdown after touchdown after touchdown, it will lose. Even if it has a great offense.
This truth also extends to politics. Exhibit A: for the first five months of this year, fresh on the heels of a massive, historic, landslide statewide victory in Florida last November, Governor DeSantis was flying high and looking like a billion bucks politically and electorally, and immediately made it obvious that he intended to enter the fray and throw his hat into the ring to be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee. I watched all of that play out real-time and very vividly recall what I thought when he started getting “punched” by his looming primary opponent, with whom he was sometimes tied but usually a bit behind in the very early polling but only by a little bit.
Until it happened.
Until those punches came and he failed to defend himself. At all.
I remember the first time or two thinking to myself, “He’ll push back, he’ll reply with an effective retort or unquestionable data or demonstration of strength” since he had so much of it politically at the time… but NOPE!
Instead, he just kept taking punches. One after another after another. Without even so much (er, so little) as lifting his hands to, in boxing lingo, shield and protect his head from the brutal, battering blows.
The point of this post is NOT AT ALL whether or not he should’ve entered that race in the first place or, subsequently, whether or not said punches should’ve been thrown by his opponent. The point IS that said punches were thrown yet he mustered NO DEFENSE.
While perpetually and sometimes painfully proven to be true in sports and politics (and business, and even driving a car… the list is long), did you know that this is even truer in the Christian life? Our personal, individual role is, by divine design, one of defense, not offense.
The Bible makes this conclusion crystal clear in 1 Peter 5:8-10 – “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But RESIST him [i.e., “DE-FENSE!”], firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, WILL HIMSELF perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. [i.e., OFFENSE!]” (emphasis added)
Note that it tells us to “resist” the devil, not to fight him (and 2 Peter 2:10-12 and Jude 8-10 say this even more explicitly); to be “sober”, not “angry” or “aggressive”; to “be on the alert”, not on the attack; to “resist” and stand “firm”, not to follow or pursue or chase after our adversary. Why? Simple: because God’s design is for us to focus on defense and to let Him take care of the offense: He “WILL (not might) HIMSELF (not anyone else, including ourselves)” fulfill any and all “offense” He desires to be demonstrated or displayed in us. (Notably, the Apostle Paul perfectly echoes this in Romans 12:19 (emphasis added) – “NEVER take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of GOD, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is MINE, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” OUR role = DEFENSE; GOD’S role = OFFENSE. We are never to be defensive, but always to be on defense.)
And the Bible makes this truth, this concept, this perspective, this design equally clear in Ephesians 6:17 – “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
There have been a number of headline-grabbing mass killings in the past year alone… how many were carried out using a helmet?
Exactly. None, zero, zilch. Because a helmet is obviously an item intended and designed for defense, not offense. (Even the players on offense use helmets to DEFEND their head, their brain, NOT to injure anyone.)
But equally interesting and illuminating in that verse is how the word “sword” is used.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, DJ Bible! Unlike a helmet, a sword is an item intended for offense, to injure and even kill others!” But it’s always a wise and good idea to look beneath the surface when it comes to Scripture, when reading the Bible (i.e., which is why I often say that studying the Bible is even better than just reading it, just as memorizing the Bible is even better than just studying it since the former is far more conducive to full and unhindered meditation than is the latter), and that’s totally true for Ephesians 6:17 because the word commonly translated as “sword” actually refers to a “dirk”, a “dagger”, i.e., a “short knife”. Like this one:
Due to its length (lack thereof) it’s obviously intended for defense, not offense. For warding off attackers, clearly not for going on the attack.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Bible thumpers”. It refers to people who “preach” and personally pontificate toward others (i.e., more at than to). But the thing the Bible was primarily written to “thump” is oneself, one’s own sin nature as it lurks in one’s heart and mind and soul. (And only secondarily to teach other people, and those who engage in the latter are strongly warned by God to do so in utter humility and after much self-reflection and especially application/obedience, see James 1:19-27 and 3:1 and 2 Timothy 2:15.)
You see, God’s design is that we focus on defense while letting Him totally take care of the offense. In football terms, the Lord is both Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, He perfectly fulfills both roles. Much as He does Judge (2 Timothy 4:8) and Criminal Defense Attorney (the “advocate” of 1 John 2:1). At least initially, Peter was focused on or characterized by offense, John by a proper perspective primarily pointed toward defense. Martha mainly played offense while Mary opted more for the “defense”-oriented qualities of love and affection and humility and worship.
I’ll elaborate in a future post (or, more likely, series) but anxiety is caused in a person’s mind and spirit and body and life when he or she tries to go on offense versus staying on “defense” and learning to love the latter and let the Lord handle the former. (Here’s a preview: note that the above-referenced 1 Peter 5:8-10 immediately follows verse 7. which, along along with Philippians 4:6-7, “just happens” to be THE FOREMOST verse about anxiety in the entire Bible! Not a coincidence, not a fluke… stay tuned, much much much more to come on this, which will absolutely transform your life.)
I don’t think I’ve ever used a movie quote on this website but I’m going to do so because (a) I liked the film “The Apostle” in how it was so focused on showing the mass public Bible verses and worship and church and how, after every Hollywood studio turned him down, Robert Duvall funded and directed it himself, and (b) the following clip drives home the point of this particular post perfectly and succinctly, so without further ado I’ll leave you with this encouragement in how to primarily conduct your daily living out of the Bible:
Defense, not offense. ”Dagger”, not “sword”. God, not ourselves!
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