More Than a Spectator Sport

The stadium was packed, everyone was on their feet, the shouting in the stands drowning out the sound of an airline jet passing overhead. The fans were going crazy as the two teams battled in the last few minutes of the game. It was the Super Bowl and both teams were tied with only one minute to go. There is nothing to compare with being there and experiencing the excitement of those moments as the two teams, equally matched, battled out the last minutes of a hard-fought game. With time for one more play, the quarterback looks downfield to see a wide receiver open. He throws the ball into the hands of the receiver who spins out of a tackle, twists past another defender, and runs the last five yards diving over the goal line for a touchdown. The crowd goes wild!

In the following days, fans from both teams will be criticizing and praising different players. The Monday morning quarterbacks will be giving “expert advice” on what the coaches should have done. Later these same fans will be discussing their favorite hockey, baseball, and basketball teams. There are many spectators in sports and while they admire the condition and skills of their favorite players, their own exercise can sometimes consist of nothing more than moving their arms to their mouths to eat junk food as they sit in their armchairs watching the games on television.

The same mentality is often found in churches where spectator Christians go from place to place searching for what “suits” their perceived style of music, ritual, and ambiance. Too often they do not really hear the ministry of God’s Word because they are distracted by the many projects they have planned for the day ahead of them.

Christian Players

What is happening to take the real spiritual life and participation out of Christian living? I believe we have come to accept as normal the secular society in which we live. Unfortunately, the church has also become more and more secularized and is accepting the current trends of a lost world system. While modern technology is helpful in so many ways, it can also re-arrange our thinking and actions as it numbs our minds and cauterizes our consciences to God’s plan for life and living. Following the secularized worldview reminds us of Lot who was drawn to the worldly ways of his time (Gen. 13:10-12). It may seem exciting but has no value to God.

However, scripture gives many examples of people who followed God’s way, men like Abram, John the Baptist, Matthew, Paul, and many more. New Testament scriptures are filled with examples of the Lord’s teaching about what it is to lay up treasures in heaven. (1 Tim. 6:17-19; Luke 18:28-30). There are many more recent church leaders such as George Whitefield, D.L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, and the five missionary martyrs in Ecuador who continue to give us examples of serving God and His people and not just being a spectator.

There are several biblical examples of the Lord Jesus calling men to follow Him because He had a plan and purpose for their lives. Two of John the Baptist’s followers heard John say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” They followed the Lord who asked, “What do you seek?’ They replied, “Rabbi, where are You staying?’” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” (John 1:36-39 NASB). They followed the Lord Jesus, stayed with Him that day and then Andrew went to look for his brother Peter with the good news. “He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’…He brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41-42).

Later, Peter and Andrew were by the sea casting out their nets when the Lord passed by and called them. “He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me’” (Mark 1:16-18). The Lord called them and gave them a better work and a new focus for their lives. They would become “fishers of men.” They were no longer observers but players in the real game of life.

A tax collector, Matthew, was busy at work when the Lord passed by (Matt. 9:9). The Lord then went to Matthew’s house where he was able to speak to many tax collectors (Matt. 9:10). Matthew opened the way for the Lord to speak to all these and to other sinners. He later wrote the gospel that carries his name.

The apostle Paul was called in a very unusual way when the Lord appeared to Him on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6). Paul was commissioned as a chosen instrument of the Lord to take the gospel message to Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel. This was not going to be an easy task as it would be a pathway of suffering, persecution and finally martyrdom. Paul became one of the greatest of the apostles and was used through his suffering to pen a large portion of the New Testament. His life shows what God can do with those who are prepared to follow the Lord with all their hearts.

The Lord told a parable illustrating some of the excuses people make for not coming to Him, and these are typical and still in vogue today (Luke 14:16-20). One man had bought some land and wanted to look at it. But there was no purpose in just looking at his land. Many times, our possessions become more important to us than being involved in serving the Lord. Wealth and possessions become obstacles to living “the life that is truly life.”

First Timothy 6:17-19 says: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (NIV).

Today, we are called to follow the Lord and be obedient to Him as He fits and prepares us to serve. He will not call everyone to be missionaries overseas or well-known evangelists, but He has a place for each one of us in a local church, either here at home or overseas, using us together with others in continuing to carry the gospel to the world around us. He will prepare and fit us for the ministry He wants us to perform. He gives spiritual gifts to every believer and as we work together, God will use the diversity of our gifts and abilities, even sometimes using our weaknesses, to manifest His greatness and power.

Don’t be a spectator. Offer yourself to the Lord and be prepared to do whatever He has for you to do, wherever He can best use you.