Oh, did I type that outloud?
What a thrill it was to make the cut, he was so excited to finally be a part of the “chosen” few. I bet this year would be the greatest year ever!
When they handed out the jersey with that number on it, the matching helmet, pads, mouth piece, the cleats, and the sweats to wear when they were off the field, he felt larger than life! Invincible! Proud! It was awesome!
The first football write up in the paper mentioned his name as a newcomer. There he was in black and white print. Wow! Girls started calling, they were cheerleaders! Wow! Even though he was a freshman, people seemed to care about him. They wanted to talk to him at school, they were all instant friends, with one common denominator—football!
A fleeting thought of “dad was right, this is cool…” raced through his head. Even though it was a choice he had made to even tryout for the team because of his father’s dreams, it was true, that this was an awesome experience and he was ultimately glad that he did. And every time he puts on that jersey… well, everybody knew! “I play football, yes I do!”
We learn the “plays” we “look the part” we sit in church, absorb the information taught—like a sponge, learn and memorize the scripture, feed off the encouragement of others who are glad we “joined” the family of believers…. It’s cool! We are an excepted part of something! We are really cool! Wow! Even though we were “pressured” into attending a function by a friend, family member, or by trials and tribulations in our life… Whatever, we are here now and this is cool!
Practices starts: run, run, run, memorize the plays, lift, lift, lift, memorize the plays, hit, hit, hit, memorize the plays, run, run, run… “What have I gotten into? I’m little, barely 5’4″ these guys are freaking huge!” Slowly, but steadily he builds. The first year is always the hardest.
We buy a Study Bible, they begin our lessons, attend church every time the door is open and realize there is a whole lot more to this Christianity thing that first meets the eye. The first years are always the hardest… or is this our second, fifth, tenth… twentieth… How long have I been “on the team?”
No Varsity this year, but during a JV scrimmage, he makes the interception and the next year, his sophomore year, he makes the starting lineup as a receiver. His picture appears in the paper, and his confidence and stamina builds. He is at practice early and he’s one of last ones to leave, he eats right, starts building and hey- that growth spurt didn’t hurt either! “I think I might need a bigger jersey…”
Asked to usher, to be a deacon, lead a Bible Study, go on a mission trip… yeah I’ve been noticed, I’m a powerhouse. I’ve done more than anyone around me. I know I’ve given more money…. As a matter of fact, I was asked more to pray in front of the church than anyone this year…and look at how many committees I serve on!
Others, he notices quit. They didn’t come back this year, or they still don’t play. They claim an injury or don’t show up for all the practices and what is really strange is that they are “ok” with it. They don the uniforms but never get in the game… and they seem to be “ok” with it…. ???
Attendance declines, but hey! The “giving” is still up. The revival had a good turn out…. Last year. Oh, and that Christmas thing…. Did we do a Christmas thing? Well, Lottie Moon got their money… barely… I bet I gave the church a scare when I withheld my donation until the last day! If they only knew… but I’m sure that guy next to me saw and he’ll tell for sure… Well, I’m sure we’ll see some people saved through that….
“Sideline” Christians. They are the “Luke-Warm” God talks about in Revelations. They are the ones that become like the vial bacteria in God’s stomach that can not be tolerated or digested and rises to the top of the throat until it gags, and is finally vomited out.
These are the people that make the “emotional” decision to serve, but that decision never makes it from their head to their heart, they attend the Sunday service, the Wednesday Service, and every single business meeting. They sit on every committee and condemn those who do not.
They might even teach Bible Study and other classes, they might know the books in the Bible, they may have memorized scripture, but they don’t study or when they do their arrogance gets in the way of Truth. As a matter of fact, because of their “Side-Line” view, the “Plays” get distorted, they take verses out of context to meet their needs and they believe their tithes will compensate for their personal part in not fulfilling The Great Commission… after all…
“There’s no ‘I’ in “Team” It is not how we play the game… as long as we win… right? And I know I’m on the winning team…Right?”
How different his life has become. Junior year brings about major changes. The guys that were the greatest encouragers and role-models his first few years, have become star-struck. They fall into the lime-light and forget the true-Light; they turn to parties, drinking and encourage him to come along… peer pressure takes on a whole new meaning. Time to make some choices… it’s a whole new “ball game.”
Mud flew everywhere; he ran the play, got open…but…he was in the exact position, but there was no ball. There was nothing, actually… silence. He looked towards the Quarterback, the leader, he was not there. Looking around for just an instant, “did he run it in?” Wait! “Take a knee!” he hears the yell and down he goes. But it is not just the Quarterback, it is your starting safety, offensive guard, they are all down… like being run over by a bull dozer, they look crushed… and just like that… they… are… out.
At the last business meeting, it was determined that the Pastor was not leading the flock, I mean, we are the flock and a domestic violence program at our church is dangerous! I don’t even think our insurance would cover the liability! And an AA meeting? Here! Get real! Really now!
And the Youth Minister was after his own interests… I mean, after all, what does he think offering our youth program up to the community? We pay a lot of money for these things and those kids don’t even have the proper upbringing to behave! What if they embarrass us and do something stupid! What will our “witness” be like then? Hu!
And that Music Minister- wanting to play that “new” kind of Christian music! That’s why God gave us those sacred hymnals…. (Oh, should that be capitalized? NOT).
And just like that, they… are… out.
On the “field of Christian-life” we have choices. God calls us into His playing field, sends along encouragers and we join the team. We don the uniform: (Ephesians 6:14-18)
o Gird yourself with truth
o Breast plate of righteousness
o We “shod” our feet with the preparation of the Gospel
o We know the “plays” (The sword of the Spirit)
Ø Helmet/Face Mask
o Put on the Helmet of Salvation
o Put on the shield of faith
o Join a church
And then there is the…
Ø Practice – Faith in action!
o Building relationships
o Knowing your strength (your team’s strength) and your weaknesses
o Endure the pain (practice… run, run, lift, lift, memorize, memorize, run, run…)
o Make the sacrifices
§ Don’t give in to sinful temptations
§ Stay pure (I Tim 5:22) – “… you can not serve 2 Masters…. Chose this day, Whom you will serve!”
There are so many “side-line” Christians who are ok with being on the sidelines. They are the ones who cheer everyone else on… “Go Team!” Oh, they might be involved, but they are not realizing God’s true plan for their life or anyone else’s for that matter! They don the proverbial “uniform” so they can make their “statement” and everyone will know that they are “good people” but as far as fulfilling God’s desire for a church (study the book of Acts) they would rather hoard and be “good stewards” of what God gave them…. Really? God doesn’t give us anything! Except eternal Life, we own NOTHING – it’s all on loan!
And by putting God in a “box” by telling others what kind of music He likes to listen to, or how He likes to be worshiped is nothing short of stupid, sinful and crushing to those we can reach by allowing our simple little minds to open to the wonders of Christ and His Kingdom.
The players are taken off the field, and time is running short. The crowd goes absolutely wild. Then the coach grabs his arm. “I need you.” The young receiver complies, the play is called and he remembers the play, he runs into position, he moves past the block, and he goes…all… the…way….!
He is the encourager, the little guy who stepped up, when he was called to do so. The guy who, even though he fell into temptation by removing his focus for a moment, looked into the Light and pulled himself up – disregarding what others would say when he didn’t go with the “crowd,” he was there when he was needed and he did what he was instructed to do.
And coming off the field, his coach said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done!”
NOW-GET IN THE GAME AND PLAY HARD!
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Holly T. Ashley
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Cross Strength Ministries/Bodies 4 Christ