This past weekend I watched most of the Women’s Final Four basketball tournament. I witnessed narrow escapes and come-from-behind victories. At one point, one of the announcers reminded us viewers of a Pat Summit quote she often spouted to her Tennessee Lady Vols. Coach Summit understood the importance of excellence in the little things. She said, “Offense sells tickets. Defense wins games. But rebounds win championships.”

It’s never hard to identify your opponent on the basketball court. Their uniforms are emblazoned with a different name and a different color. However, in our Christian lives, those who oppose us can look just like us. But, make no mistake! Those who disagree with us, abuse us, neglect us, slander us, or live a vastly different lifestyle are not our true enemies. Our only real enemy is Satan.  

When Jesus began his ministry, the Holy Spirit immediately led Him to the desert for a time of testing (Matthew 4). If tickets had been available for this showdown, it would have definitely been a sellout. It had all the drama of an epic contest. By stepping onto the court with Satan, Jesus proved His willingness to relate to us while giving us proof of His holiness. He also coached us on how to handle temptations from Satan and his minions. Like Jesus, we must go on the offensive. When we are saved by faith, we score our only (but exceptionally powerful) weapon in spiritual warfare – the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With it, we then fight all of our battles on our knees. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:16-18 ESV)

As Jesus emerged victorious from that contest in the wilderness, He would have to transition to playing defense for three years. While battling for the hearts of men and women, He would face stiff opposition from those who felt threatened, fearful, jealous, or wore legalism like a badge of honor. But, He knew Satan was the ultimate one calling all of their plays. Jesus not only dressed out in the armor of God, He WAS and IS the armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. During His ministry He defended His right to be called the King of Kings and the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He unapologetically wielded His Sword (the Word) whenever He needed to back up His claims.

As I thought about Pat Summit’s quote, I concentrated on that last part. “Rebounds win championships.” Sure, flashy passes and dunks get the most attention. Good defenses make a habit of securing the ball or creating havoc for the other team. But rebounds? Rebounds happen when someone misses their mark. 

Surely, Satan thought Jesus had missed the mark when He went to the cross. The dark skies and the quaking earth must have sent a thrilling shiver through his stony heart. For three days, Satan reveled in victory. But then …

“In a dark cold tomb 
Where our Lord was laid
One miraculous breath
And we’re forever changed!”
(“All Hail King Jesus” – Jeremy Riddle)

Jesus rebounded! 

Because Jesus rebounded, He passes the victory to us. We have the opportunity to become champions. In every championship game I’ve ever watched or participated in, the victorious team has never merely walked off the court as if nothing happened. No, every player jumped for joy, grabbed somebody to hug, smiled their faces off, and donned the t-shirt proclaiming them as winners. If winning a sporting contest can ignite that kind of emotion, perhaps this Easter, and every other day, we can outdo that! Satan has been defeated! We win!

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