It’s Time To Get Off The Sidelines
Excuse my while I “vent” for a moment…
Almost 2 years of internet blogging have taught me that this note will not be read by many people. In fact, the pattern has become entirely predictable. If the title has anything to do with either personal blessing or sexuality, people will jump all over it. But on the other end of the spectrum? Write about topics like God’s righteousness, His holiness, or the divine call to evangelize? For the most part people just aren’t interested. The mindset that so poisons this present age is quickly working it’s way into the hearts of many Christians. We have become consumed with self. So much of what we do in church is defined in terms of “God, what have you done for me lately?” We are rapidly losing any sense of serving God as we become increasingly enchanted by the false ideology that God is somehow here to serve us.
The resulting impact from such thinking is that we become spectators. Sad. But true. Over the years I have watched it from behind the pulpit. I have witnessed it firsthand while sitting in the pew. Church becomes just another event that I watch. But seldom is church something for which I feel a sense of obligation, a sense of commitment, or a need for involvement. Just look at the numbers. Most churches struggle to find volunteers. Churches have to pay almsost everyone these days from the pastor to the nursery workers. Nobody wants to do anything except sit, receive, and get their blessing. The joke in most pastoral circles? “Yeah, at my church 10% of the people do 90% of the work.” That’s really not funny. Not at all. What a sad indictment on God’s people. If the Church was a football game, we have become a stadium full of onlookers, content to have a seat, willing to watch as a small handful of individuals fight it out down on the field. WHAT RUBBISH!!! It’s time we got off the sidelines and got in the game!! A world filled with lost and dying people surrounds us. We do not lack for opportunities. We do not lack for empowerment (the Holy Spirit lives inside us). We just lack the willingness to get up and go forth.
In Judges 6 Gideon has just gone through all his excuses. The angel of the Lord had come and greeted him with an unbelievable declaration, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” But rather than strapping on his helmet and dashing out onto the field, Gideon began to question God’s care and compassion. Gideon began to make excuses. Gideon began to list all the reasons why God had chosen the wrong guy for the job. The angel patiently and graciously listens to it all. And then he simply reminds Gideon of something essential. The book of Romans says it this way, “If God is for us, who is against us?” Because God is on our side we are unbeatable. We cannot be defeated. The victory is ours. Triumph is certain. But we have to get off the sidelines and play the game.
Yes, Gideon was going to have to fight. Yes, there were battles that lie ahead for him and the people of God. No, it wasn’t going to be necessarily easy. The would have to face the enemy without and confront the enemy within. But God was with them. His strength would be their strength. They had His promise. The Midianties would be defeated. But… and this is critical, they had to go.
God was sending Gideon. Victory was certain but Gideon would have to leave the comfort and security of the sideline. The people could no longer hide in the caves of their complacency and idolatry. Things could change. Things would change. But first, they had to go forth from the places that had become home for the past 7 years. Sin would have to be left behind. Unbelief and doubt could no longer be excuses. God had declared that they could win, that the enemy would be vanquished, that a new day was about to dawn. But they couldn’t stay where they were. Victory would not come as long as they remained in the caves. They had to go out.
The choice that Gideon faced is the call that we have received. Remember Jesus’ words? “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation… but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnessess…” Honestly? I understand the dilemma. It’s easier to hide in the comfort of the church walls. Less likely that we will be rejected or misunderstood. There’s far less persecution inside the safety of the church. Almost no chance of being hurt if we insulate ourselves with people of like-minded faith. Besides, facing the enemy requires work. It requires sacrifice. Getting off the sidelines and getting into the game involves certain risks. You might get injured. You might make a mistake (what would others think???). Yeah, lot of reasons to stay in church, to stay on the sidelines. And I would agree with them all except for one reason to the contrary. The same thing He said to Gideon still holds true today…
“Have I not sent you?” (Well, hard to argue that one. Now where did I put my helmet?)