In football, the offense is given four opportunities, or downs, to advance the ball ten yards down the field. If a team is successful, they’ll receive a new set of four downs, but if not, they’ll have to give up possession and punt, or kick the ball downfield and wait for another opportunity. During the course of a game, sometimes punting is the right decision, but at some point, if a team desires to win, they must fight and gain the ten yards needed. In your Christian fight, have you been punting too often on a certain sin or struggle?
The night before his death on the cross, Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane for the greatest fight of his earthly life. The devil, running out of chances to deter the Son of God from his mission, was going to throw everything he had against Jesus in that garden. Jesus, fully God, expected the battle, even telling his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter temptation.” (Luke 22:40) Immediately, Jesus took his own advice and knelt down to pray, asking God, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup rom me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (V. 42) Do you see what’s happening here? Jesus is being tempted by Satan to avoid his earthly mission of dying on the cross for the children of God – but Jesus isn’t punting, he’s going head-to-head with it.
How often are we tempted with sin and merely choose to distract ourselves or work to ignore it? We say, “I know this is wrong, but I’ll deal with it later. Now just isn’t a good time.” What does the Bible say to this “punting attitude?” In Psalm 95:7, the Spirit of God says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Of course, this is the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness; though they’d seen the amazing deliverance from Egypt, they still turned from God resulting in forty more years in the wilderness.
Again, in Hebrews 3:13, the author reminds us, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Don’t be deceived: continuously punting a sin away will harden your heart, making it impossible to score and win. Have you ever watched a game where the team punted the ball away but never received another chance to score? If we don’t deal with sin today, we’re not guaranteed to hear from God tomorrow. We may not get the ball back.
In Gethsemane, we saw Jesus on the offensive, scoring in the end zone, didn’t we? Was it sweaty and bloody? Yes. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) The result for Jesus was total submission to the Father to face the agony on the cross – the greatest victory over Satan in human history, a game-changing touchdown in the face of the enemy.
Do we sweat blood when we punt our sins away? No, the punter in football often finishes the game with a clean uniform. No, we sweat blood, we get dirty, when we fight, scratch, and claw for every yard to score a touchdown. Today, think of a struggling sin that you’ve repeatedly punted on and hear the words of Jesus, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:46)