I was recently up in the offices of our athletic department and it was or was about to become the "Off Season" for many of the sports. In my minds eye I could envision the coaches preparing to sit back, take a deep breath, relax some, maybe sit on the couch a little at home and put their feet up...after all, they've worked hard this past year and they've earned the right to do just that.
As I was taking items out of my mailbox, a celebratory yell came from the women's basketball offices indicating the commitment of a recruit! I stopped by another office to say hello and found a white board full of names of recruits with rankings by them and notes. In another office, coaches had just said goodbye to a recruit and were already preparing for the arrival of another one. Then I recalled the week prior; I was asked to come in and meet with a junior college recruit that our basketball team had invited to campus. Softball and baseball coaches, though busy with their seasons still being active, were busy evaluating film. Basketball coaches were talking of summer tournaments they will attend to scout high school stars. Hockey, volleyball, all busy preparing for additions to their teams and plotting changes for the next season. Meeting schedules were on doors up and down the halls, indicating when coaches were meeting with athletes to evaluate the past and plan for the future.
There was a fury of activity, strategy and planning going on. "But wait...this is the off season" I thought to myself. For a staff that is committed to excellence and being successful, there is/was no time for a let-down, no time to let their guard down and relax or lose focus. I talked with the strength coach who informed me he was constructing summer training and conditioning programs for the athletes. He explained how they evaluate the current physical condition of the athletes based on testing and measure that against the levels of strength and fitness that will be required to meet the goals the coaches have for the upcoming year. They then formulate the daily plan the athletes will need to follow and give discipline to in order to be at that level by the time the next season starts. He told me how important it is the athletes continue their training through the summer and don't take time off because it's easy to get out of the habit of lifting and conditioning and you can lose the progress you've made very quickly.
I walked out of the athletic department that day feeling so grateful that I get to be a part of "it". A culture where character and integrity from the leadership throughout the staff, fosters success in life and athletics. But then it also dawned on me that we often see ourselves as going into an "off season". A time that follows a test or trail we've faced and we've passed it (had a good season). We reason that it is "okay" to take a little time off, let down a bit and relax; after all, our walk with God must be strong, right?...I mean we just passed a trial or test didn't we? A little time off from the daily discipline of time in God's word, time in prayer and journaling won't cause any harm...we've earned it...WRONG!!!
This thought pattern is a trap, set for us straight from the pit of hell. If we just "passed" a test or trial, it's only because of the power and grace of God. That means satan was defeated in whatever that arena of competition was. So, what does the devil do when he gets defeated...he comes and tempts us to take a little time off, lose focus, be confident in our accomplishments and abilities. Consider Matthew 4: 3-10. Here, satan tries to tempt Jesus to ultimately worship him. He makes promises to Jesus of which he has no authority to make. He's trying to lead Jesus into rationalizing it's okay to enter into an "off season" for a little while...verse 10, Jesus gives the devil a tongue lashing with all authority and truth that is in His Name.
Think of why it was so important for the athlete to keep training through the summer...you lose what you've gained quickly and you can fall out of the discipline or habit of working out very easily. The same can happen in our walk with Jesus. If we take just a little time away from it or enter into an "off season" we will quickly lose what we gained and run the risk of falling out of the critical discipline and habit of daily spending time with him. We need to be disciplined at all times to our daily pursuit of Jesus. As there is great benefit and reward for coaching staffs that stay to their tasks, and to the athlete that stays committed to the discipline of working out and conditioning, so there is to us if we stay committed to our walk with the Lord and avoid entering into an off season...James 4: 7-8, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come (draw) near to God and He will come (draw) near to you..." (NIV).
A coaching staff that doesn't continually recruit will not have the athletes needed to be competitive and successful. An athlete that takes time off from lifting and conditioning in the "off season" will undoubtedly suffer defeat. A christian that takes an "off season" from a walk with the Lord will find him/herself being defeated by the enemy of our soul. Let's not be defeated!