There is a place on a football field where players rarely get chased or pushed or tackled. There are seats and beverages and the view of the game is excellent. We can hear the crowds cheering and booing and, if we close our eyes, we might think they are talking to us. We, if we are on the sidelines, are most definitely not in the game.
A lot of us like to put on the uniform and pace the sidelines and comment on the game in progress. We also like to stay clear of the action; it’s much safer that way. We’re near the action, doesn’t that count? Being near the game means that we know the players, we are in a uniform, we have been trained, we have the necessary skills, we know the plays, the lingo, the strategy. We are just not using them.
How can we tell where we are standing? Are we in the game?
1. Are we being hit by the opposition?
The enemy wants to proceed down the field unopposed and if we are standing in their way they will hit us. This has no relation to how nice we are; it has everything to do with who we are and where we are standing.
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:18–19).
2. Are we hurt?
Do we weep as Jesus wept? Do we feel the pain of the oppressed, do we ache with the addict, do we mourn our own sin and the sin of others? The game will takes its toll on us and on our actual earthly body.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (II Corinthians 4:7–12).
3. Do we have stories of great triumphs?
All players like to reminisce about great games and plays. Some of those in the game are standing outside the gates of hell imploring those who visit to not kill their babies; others are on their knees praying for our country and a reformation, some are making great sacrifices daily on behalf of the disciples God has placed in their home. Wherever God has placed us, we can score, we’re part of the victorious team after all. Even if it’s a score that no one else will ever witness. And we should end up with stories; great stories of God’s work in and through us.
For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again (Hebrews 11:32–35).
4. Are we filled with joy?
In spite of all the hits we will take in the game, the strange thing is that the overall result is true and pure joy. Are we excited about our Christian life and what is happening in it or are we apathetic and think the church is weak or dead? It only takes a bit of playing to find out that God is doing a mighty work in this land. He’s destroying His enemies and comforting and blessing His people.
It is a joy for the just to do justice, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity (Proverbs 21:15).
Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.
In Your name they rejoice all day long,
And in Your righteousness they are exalted.
For You are the glory of their strength,
And in Your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the Lord,
And our king to the Holy One of Israel
5. Do we love spending time in the locker room?
You know, that place where all the players hang out, where we get treatment for our wounds, where coach gives us inspiration and then prays for the team? Where the owner meets with us to give His vision for the team. Is the church where we meet our refuge and strength? If we consider it optional or boring or passé, then we might not be in the game, for it is the very center of the Christian life.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge
We can without too much concern of being discovered, remain on the sidelines. This is especially true if our friends and family are also there. Few will notice, even fewer will comment on how clean our uniform is. We were, however, drafted (bought with a price) and trained in order for us to enter the game, to score points and to keep the other team from scoring.
Playing means that our lives will never be the same. We’ll get hit from all sides. We may lose a tooth or something greater we hold dear. But we’ll be running in the footsteps of our Savior and our King, the greatest player there ever was.
Do you have a recollection of a time you were in the game or out of it? Share it in the comments below.