The Red Zone


                                                         Jim Burns

Red Zone definition:  a red sector on a gauge or dial corresponds to conditions that exceed safety limits.

Red Zones are used in Football, in military conflicts, on college campuses, in shooting ranges, and in many other ways.  Today we want to look at the Red Zone in the Christian life.  To do a little about how the Red Zone is used we want to give a brief description of the Red Zones in football, the military, college campuses, then we will delve in the Red Zones of the Christian life.

Red Zone in Football

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is widely credited with coining the term “red zone” for the area between the 20-yard line and the end zone. He first mentioned it publicly in a Washington Post story in 1982.  So, why Is It Called the Red Zone in Football?

The red zone, or the red area as it’s sometimes called, is named for its relation to danger. The red zone for the defense means that the offense is close to scoring points. This area inside the 20-yard line is where the offense converts the highest-scoring touchdowns or field goals. Both sides are fighting the fight to win; whatever it takes.  When one is in the Red Zone, every ounce of energy, every skill, every bit of resource both teams have, are dumped into the fight. It is an all-out-effort not to allow the opposing team to get a touchdown, while the other team does all they can to score a touchdown.

Red Zone in the military

The Red Zone is in an area of conflict that exists above the purely conventional threshold and below the threshold of a general nuclear exchange. Again, every ounce of energy, every skill, every bit of conventional and unconventional resources is put into the effort to hold ground, or to win ground. The Red Zone is where the defensive forces use everything they have to offset enemy’s advance.  In the Red Zone it is an all-out effort for both forces to win the battle.

Red Zone on College campus

The red zone is the periodwhen students on campus are most vulnerable to sexual assault. It is also called pre-exposure, meaning it’s the time before college students feel comfortable in their new environment. It is a time to be vigilant, put every energy, every skill, and every bit of conventional and unconventional resources to provide the best security to the students during the Red Zone time frame.

Red Zones in the Christian Life

Let’s look at the new Christian’s Red Zone. Once a person confesses his life to Christ by faith and begins to travel the journey toward becoming more like Jesus, he is in the first Red Zone.  When a new Christian comes to Christ is the exact time Satan begins to work. When we find freedom in Christ in our life.  Satan works with every ounce of energy he has, every skill he has developed over the thousands of years from the fall of man until this very day to trip up the new Christian. He jumps right in with everything he has; he will dump into every resource of he has to trip up the Christian in the Red Zone. 

Satan will entice the new Christian with sexual temptations, will put him positions to steal, lie, cheat, and even kill to better himself or to defend himself. Satan will use everything possible because a new Christian is in a new environment and is vulnerable, so he tried to trip him up at ever possible turn.

The Scriptures give us the perfect example of Jesus’ Red Zones. When Jesus was baptized and the heavens were opened, where the Spirit of God was descended upon him with great glory; confirming that he was well pleased by the Father; at the outset of his God-ordained ministry. He was immediately led up by the spirit (little s, not the Spirit of God) into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil[1]   

The temper came to him pouring out his thousands of years of successful tricks. Satan used natural human needs – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – physical, emotional, social, esteem and self-actualization needs. What did Satan use to deceive Eve?  He used food and doubt.  So, he strikes with food and doubt. Jesus was weak and hungry from 40 days and night in fasting, Satan hit him right at his weakest point –  “If you are the son of God, turn these stone in bread (He tempted him to take care of his physical needs to prove who He was).” Jesus’ defense was his offense -the Word of God.  The temper then appealed to his ego (proving to be the son of God), show who you are by jumping off this high pinnacle of the temple and see if the angels catch you.  Jesus simple appealed to the Word of God again, “it is written, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  Then old Satan used the greatest tool in his bag of tricks that always works, 100% of the time, has worked for thousands of years – the temptation of the position of power (esteem and self-actualization). Satan uses his most valuable and powerful tool he had, pride – the love of power with a mixture of a lie – “All these things I will give you (a lie, he had no such power to give), if you will fall down and worship me.”  I can imagine the devil was smiling from ear to ear, I’m sure I’ve got him now, but Jesus simply appealed to the Word of God again, “Get thee behind me Satan, for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”[2]  He had tried his often used, successful tactic for thousands of years on Jesus, and he had failed.   

The devil, I can imagine with his head low and his shoulders slumped as he walked away from Jesus, as the angels came and ministered to him.  But he was not going to quit.  He was going to keep trying to defeat Jesus, his most formidable opponent yet.

You see we have a weapon that defends us and as we use the offensive tool of the Word of God. In the Red Zones, we have some good news, we know the outcome of the game before it starts.  We win! “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.[3]

Jesus began his ministry, calling a group of students – interns (disciples) to teach them how to do what they saw him do, healed sick people, fed the hungry, and forgiving sins.  Satan began to see his next great tool, another tool he had used for years; he would use the religious leaders of the Jews.  They had thousands of years of traditions and unequivocal, unquestionable, authoritative laws and Jesus is overruling their laws.  So, Jesus was in another Red Zone in his ministry.  He was doing some good things, but he was doing it in an incorrect fashion; he was violating their laws while doing what the Father had called him to do. 

Jesus was gaining more and more followers because he was sharing the love of God to people who for many years were ignored – demon possessed, lepers,  the blind, crippled, and sinners – the dredges of society.  It seemed that many people liked what he was doing but he was not doing it the right way – he was not following the religious traditions.  This can be a big Red Zone to those who follow Jesus in our day.  There are so many who need the touch of the love of God through the life of Christ’s followers but are cut down because they don’t follow the traditions of the church.  This is a Red Zone for preachers today. It is estimated that a third of pastors are considering leaving the ministry because of the stress of their work, because they are fighting against the traditions of the church while trying to serve the Lord God as Jesus did.

However, in this Red Zone, Jesus kept on touching the lives of the needy and kept teaching his disciples to live a life of love and servitude, seemingly ignoring as best he could the religious leaders and their traditons.  Again, with every confrontation, Jesus simply appealed to the Word of God.  The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and all the smaller sects of the Jewish religions joined together, they put their head together and sought the ruling authorities, the Romans.  They used their influence with Herod and Pilate.  Satan probably rubbed his hand in delight, now he would get one of his own to betray him with money.  Money will always do the trick.  Old Judas was always thinking about money.  The betrayal seemed to do the trick. 

Jesus had entered another Red Zone.  When it was time, he went to the garden and there he prayed for the Father to let this cup pass from me (I just imagine ole Satan standing in the shadows, jumped up and down, almost overjoyed that he finally got him when Jesus said, “Father, if it possible, let this cup pass from me.”  But Jesus said, “never the less your will be done.”    Poor ole Satan, he just can’t win for losing.  He is going to go through this.  I can’t believe it.  But, I have one ace up my sleeve.  The trial, and they are sure to crucify him.  Hey, it’s just a few yards away from touchdown. They will crucify him. 

Satan keep on trying to turn us back from doing what God wants us to do. This is another of the Red Zones in our lives.  I’ve traveled that pathway many times in my almost 60 years in ministry.  I have been exposed to some great opportunities to let that cup pass from me.  I’ve had a lot of enticing opportunities to turn my back on my calling.  Only by the grace of God, I am still here today.   

Here Jesus has another Red Zone – a mock of a trial with the religious leaders on board with the trial, then persuaded Pilate to join in the crowd, then they found a bunch of folks (many who had been healed, fed, and loved) began to protest, shouting that Jesus is to be crucified.  Pilate tried but failed and let the people have the final say.  Even ole Peter had one of those Red Zones. He was tempted and followed the temptation by denying Jesus three times during that horrible pre-crucifixion experience of torture and humiliation Jesus’ went through on the way to the cross.
Ole Satan though he had his win in the bag.  They’re going to send him to the Place of the Skull.   Ole Satan had another joyous experience, dancing round and round, it is going to happen, it’s going to happen, I’ve won, I’ve won.  I’ve won!

I had a Red Zone that almost destroyed my calling.  I was brought down lower than a snake’s belly.  I lost my ministry of no fault of my own, but through the perceptions of others; I was deemed to be no longer to be a pastor, and lost almost everything in this world I had.  There are things that can happen to you, that you have no control of, but God works out the details.  I am only here today by the grace of God and faith. 

Jesus went through many Red Zones in his life and ministry, yet He became the lamb of God, he became the sacrifice of all sacrifices for the salvation of all who will believe; he became a new covenant; he brought justification; he brought sanctification; he brought eternal life to all who believe. 

Another Red Zone for Jesus. He was hanged on a cross, he hung between heaven and earth for about six hours and he yielded his spirit to the Father, and breathed his last.   Oh, how happy ole Satan must have laughed out loud, it is done, it is over, I’ve won.   He enjoyed his happiness for three days – they buried the body of Jesus and sealed the tomb, no more worrying about that Jesus dud. 

But on the third day early in the morning something happened, the tomb had been opened and there was no Jesus.  Ole Satan had his own Red Zone.  What has happened.   Then for several resurrection encounters with Jesus’ disciples, he then ascended into heaven.  He had the Green Zone.  He had won, once and for all. 

On the day of Pentecost, He came back in the person of the Holy Spirit and filled those who waited with His Own Spirit to live and dwell with them.   Jesus won!   Satan lost!

It’s all over now.  We have the Spirit of the Living Lord, King of Kings, Lord of Lords living in us, and we have power over the weak works of the devil.  Oh, he still runs around like a whipped puppy spouting great words of temptations, but we have battle armor.  Satan has no power over us unless we give him permission to.  We have the whole armor of God to strikes him down.

Some years after my ministry was taken away and I was a worthless man for the work of God – I was a car salesman, night auditor for a hotel, dug ditches and installed water lines, was an exterminator, ran a community water system – but then God opened up a ministry that was some of the most fruitful ministry of my life, opened up a pastorate, opened up public safety chaplaincy, opened up a regional directorship for chaplains for five states, then opened up an international directorship covering the United States, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Namibia, and working in cooperation with the United Kingdom Chaplaincy.  After retiring, He opened up a Command Chaplain position for my home state. 

No matter the Red Zones you go through, don’t ever count out the power of Jesus and the mighty things he can and will do. We have the whole armor of God.

Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, and us, that we have available a suite of armor for battle, that wins against the battle schemes of Satan.  We are to stand strong in the Lord and his mighty power with the full armor of God. Paul tells us we can gird our loins with truth (belt of truth), breastplate of righteousness, shoes with the preparation of the gospel of peace (peace), shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit/word of God, which we extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.   He tells us to pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  Keep on alert, especially be alert in the Red Zones.  Satan can’t bite us, but he can gum us, if we let him.

We are assured the victory in the Red Zones. The game is over.  Jesus won the battle through his shed blood on the cross of Calvery. Jesus won the winning touchdown at the cross. 

 Let us rejoice!  Praise God, rejoice!   The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  Amen.


[1] Matthew 3 and 4

[2] Matthew 4:1-11

[3] Romans 8:37

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