Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Playground Lesson 2: Tether Ball - Getting the "Spin"

Do you remember the game of tether ball? Two kids stand inside a circle with a tall pole at the center. A ball is tethered to the top of the pole with a sturdy cord. One player hits the ball in the assigned direction so that the cord wraps entirely around the pole. At the same time, the other player tries to gain control of the ball and hit it so the cord wraps in the opposite direction.
Here are a few facts about tether ball.
  • ·      The shorter player is always at a disadvantage.
  • ·      If you don’t concentrate, you are likely to get hit in the head.
  • ·      Once the ball starts spinning around the pole, it is nearly impossible for the opponent to stop it.
In some ways, life is much like a game of tether ball. Our opponent is the uglier side of ourselves that we know needs to change, but we just never seem to get victory. This opponent might be a bad temper, laziness, a tendency to procrastinate – things we know are not good, but are still considered somewhat “normal”. The enemy might be something more obviously problematic – addictions, compulsions, alcoholism, pornography, etc.
Whether that opponent is big and bad or a bit smaller, those “tether ball facts” still apply.
  • ·         The shorter player is always at a disadvantage. When our relationship with God is underdeveloped, neglected and starving, we will find that we are “smaller” than our opponent. When we talk about the growth of our souls, we have a choice of whether or not to remain spiritual runts.
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul stresses the importance of unity with other believers. Unity in heart. Unity in service. When we operate consistently in that kind of unity, we will grow. We will become mature. We will become strong.
  • ·         If you don’t concentrate, you are likely to get hit in the head. Even Mr. Tether Ball Champ can get distracted by a cute girl passing by and find himself getting to know that ball very up close and personal.
So it is with us. Peter warns us in1 Peter 5:8 to be sober and vigilant because our enemy is actively stalking us, seeking to destroy us. (Julie’s paraphrase) We need to focus so that we don’t get smacked in the face by something that we normally could handle.
  • ·         Once the ball starts spinning around the pole, it is nearly impossible for the opponent to stop it. One of the players gives the ball a good solid punch that gets past the other player. The ball spins around the pole, going faster and faster as the cord gets shorter. Once that spin starts, more often than not, the game is over.
How is that like life? We probably all know that there are certain warning signs unique to each of us that signal imminent defeat in whatever area of struggle we may have. We know that if we ignore those warnings, we will arrive at a “point of no return”, and it is an absolute certainty that we will fail.
o   This principle applies to a teenage couple out alone on a date.
o   It applies to the exhausted young mother whose temper threatens to explode the next time her toddler screams.
o   It applies to the husband and wife who have allowed unresolved conflict and unforgiveness to build walls between them.
o   It applies to you … and me.
Paul urges us in Ephesians 4: 27 to give our enemy no foothold. We know what  things Satan uses to gain a foothold in our lives. If we allow him to do so, it is like allowing our tether ball opponent to get that first solid hit past us starting the “spin” that ensures defeat.
Let’s learn well these lessons from the game of tether ball.
  • ·         Seek to live in unity with other believers so that we will grow up in Jesus. The more mature we are in Him, the harder we will be to defeat.
  • ·         Be vigilant and focused, not allowing ourselves to be distracted by trivial things.
  • ·         Don’t allow the enemy to gain a foothold in any area of our lives.
Of course, doing these things in our own strength is impossible, but when we do it in the unlimited power of God working through us, WE can get the “spin” on our opponent and win the game.

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