If you’ve ever played or coached competitive sports, you know the value of game film.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s when a sports team watches a recording of their game to analyze their own performance or a recording of an upcoming opponent’s game to prepare for the way their opposition plays. In my days of playing and coaching football, we spent countless hours watching game film to learn how our opponents played, and then developed strategies to defeat them.
Recently I was reading Fr. John Riccardo’s book, Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, and he compared Scripture to game film:
A successful coach shows his team what its opponents are doing. He prepares them for possible plays and points out where the enemy is weak. That’s the key to excelling in sports: get to know your opponents extremely well! Learn their strategies and tactics and be on guard for what’s coming next. When you know where your enemy is weak, you can expose that weakness and immobilize him. You can win.
Scripture is game film. Through it, God shows us what to expect from the enemy, what his weaknesses are, and how we can overcome his attempts to conquer us.Fr. John Riccardo, Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, pp. 61-62
I loved Fr. Riccardo’s analogy, and it got me thinking about how you actually break down a game film for a team. Here are three ways we can apply this analogy to our growth as missionary disciples:
1) you’ll notice things you didn’t catch in real-time
If you have ever been on the sidelines as a coach or a player on the field (or rink, court, etc.), you know that there is only so much you can see in the middle of the action. You are also limited by your point of view—what a player on the field can see is different than what the coach on the sideline or in a spotter’s booth (or in my case, sometimes the roof of a school!) can notice. That’s why game film is such a great coaching tool. You can watch the same play over and over again, focusing on different elements to get a full analysis of how every person performed during any given play.
Daily, you are in the action of your spiritual life. Life happens fast, and you can only see so much of what’s happening when you’re in the middle of it. Taking time to review your life as part of your prayer life can be a key element in getting a full evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your spiritual life.
2) Spot your opponent’s tendencies
One of the most effective uses of game film is to understand your opponents and their tendencies. This can be a big advantage on game day. As coaches, we would equip our players to anticipate the other team’s strategies, and develop our own strategies to exploit the weaknesses we noticed, rather than have the players simply reacting to the plays in the moment.
Fr. Riccardo writes: “Scripture doesn’t simply tell us what happened once, long ago, in a biblical era far, far away. Scripture tells us what always happens….The more we understand about the enemy, the more we see what plays he’s running in our lives. God exposes those strategies and equips us for the game in which our souls are at stake because he wants us to win.” (Fr. Riccardo, p. 62).
The more time you spend in Scripture, the more you are reviewing the game film. And if you are doing it prayerfully through practices like Lectio Divina, then you are reviewing the film with the ultimate coach who can point out all the weaknesses in your opponents.
3) Make a plan from the film
Once you’ve watched the film and identified your opponent’s tendencies and strategies, the last step is to make your game plan. You map out what you need your team to know about their opponents, and show them what their job is to counteract their strategies. The goal isn’t just to know what the opponent is up to. It’s to devise a strategy to defeat them so that you win.
When we study and pray with the Scriptures, the goal isn’t just to gain new understanding of our opponent’s strategies. It’s to find practical wisdom and divine help, arming ourselves to win the daily spiritual battle. The battle will never be won on our own strength. Instead, we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the plan he has for our lives through the Scriptures, and then, like the athletes on the field, we put the coach’s plan into action to win the day.
Take time every day to review the game film. Reflect upon your life, allowing the Holy Spirit to show you through the Scriptures the tactics and strategies of our common enemy in the spiritual life, and then make a plan (through the inspiration of the Spirit) to win the daily spiritual battle.
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