The Ineffective Zone

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“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1 Peter 5:8

The game looked very different from the field than it did from the stands.

I jogged to my position at midfield, trying to catch my breath before the ball came back into play. There was alot that I’d learned by watching soccer this past year, but the most intense schooling was happening right in front of me.

Watching the game from the stands fools you into thinking it’s easy. Spectating at middle- and high-school soccer games throughout the year can turn any parent into an instant expert. You tend to question what the coach is doing when you have only been a watcher. You underestimate the size of the field. It’s hard to understand a missed pass from the bleachers.

But there, playing the sport with my youth group taught me all those things I assumed I already knew. One important lesson was the difference between being fast and being quick. Anybody could be fast, if they wanted to be. But the better players were always quick.

Quick and the Dead

There is a LOT of running in soccer. There were plenty of times during the game that I would get winded from running. But I noticed on the other team, a skilled defender who always seemed to be one step ahead of me. He could run, yes, but whenever I noticed him, he was just… walking.

He knew the game and the field much better than I did. Though I was pouring my all and sweating like a racehorse, I couldn’t outrun him. A couple times I’d get the ball and try to break away, only to meet him between me and the goal. Just when I thought I was in my zone, I found I was right where he wanted me.

The Ineffective Zone

Have you ever felt that way as you’ve tried to follow Christ? You check off all the boxes: read your Bible, attend church, pray before meals, stay away from the bad kids. Yet when you try to be a witness to your friends, it turns into a disaster. Then you want to give your testimony to your family, but instead get embarrassed. So, despite doing everthing right, you find yourself miserable: short-tempered at your pastor, envious at what you see others doing on their phone, bored with sermons and singing. What happened? You do your best, try your hardest, obey everything you were told: why isn’t it enough?

If the devil can’t stop you


he’ll simply let you run yourself

to death.


Welcome to the zone. The ineffective zone.

Your merciless enemy, the Devil, has been watching you play the game of life. He’s been watching you run while he’s been “walking about.” He’s not in a hurry, because he doesn’t have to be.

You HAVE done everything right, and it’s been hard. And just when you set your sights on the goal and look for a personal victory- you run into the fiercest adversary yet. He defeats you so easily, and leaves you wondering, “Why try so hard? What’s the use?”

The end of a year can leave us bewildered at the little progress we made versus the huge effort we put out. We can spend our whole year in the zone- a good zone- but ineffective at doing anything for Christ.

You’ll always have to run; but in order to get victory, you must use other resources available to children of God:

  • Don’t go alone. Realize other Christians are on your side and be willing to accept their companionship and counsel. Welcome the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit.

“What Jesus says

is more certain

than anything we can feel.”

Adrian Rogers
  • Rely on the coach. The Bible, the viewpoint of the Lord, will reveal a “way to escape” (1 Cor. 10:13) that you can’t see from where you are. Cherish the intuition of Scripture.
  • Get unpredictable. Reading your Bible every day? Try reading it out loud. Praying before eating? Invite someone to pray with you. Struggling with a secret sin? Uninstall that app, or take a tech vacation for a week. Going to church weekly? Sit up close to the front to minimize distraction, or volunteer to help with the service somehow.

You may recognize the ineffective zone by its other name: the comfort zone. That’s right. If you like winning, learn to be uncomfortable.

There is victory in Christ.

There is no hope as long as you are comfortable being ineffective.

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