Our archrivals were defeated for the third year in a row. The hometown crowd was ecstatic. The pep club throbbed with choreographed gyrations as the band played our fight song and the cheerleaders ran to escort the team from the gridiron.
The bus ride back to the locker room lasted only ten minutes, but the time was filled with pad-slapping, helmet-knocking, and victory chants. People along the way high-fived with us as we stuck our arms out the bus windows.
It was glorious!
But, I had trouble sharing the enthusiasm.
It wasn’t going to be necessary for me to take a shower this evening… or any evening after a game. I rarely got to play and seldom worked up a sweat in the pre-game rituals. Win, lose, or draw, it didn’t really matter to me. I was second string and all I ever did was practice.
I’d work hard all week playing against the first string offense and defense, make the road trips, and suit up for the games…all to no avail. Come game time I played “tailback”: Every time I got near the field the coach would yell, “Gillham! Get your tail back!” After a few years of this kind of experience, I grew pretty apathetic toward playing organized ball.
I fear the same type scenario has lulled many of America’s Christians to fall prey to apathy’s leeches. The commitment to excellence and diligence in Christian living has been sucked out of them.
Western Christians have heard for years about “spiritual wolves” here and there, but few could testify to really having seen one. Thus, we are dangerously close to ignoring a valid cry of, “Wolf!” “Yes, yes. Another ‘spiritual wolf.’ I’ve not seen one of those creatures in years and years. I read a book about them once, but they don’t live in these parts.”
Christians are persecuted the world over, even in America. But it is ludicrous to compare the hardships American Believers face to those faced by Christ-followers in the Islamic State, fundamental Muslim countries, North Korea, China, and dozens of other places. These members of our faith family are in the game.
Could severe persecution of Christians come to the western world? There are scenarios where this could happen, but are they likely? I don’t see it, certainly not any time soon. Perhaps there will be revised tax laws that will make the fiscal stability of nonprofits tenuous, but tortured for my faith in Texas?
So what’s the point in getting spiritually ready if I’m never going to get into the “real” game anyway? I can be mediocre in my spiritual life and never miss a beat as a western Christian. I know that’s not true for my Christian family in Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and other places, but status quo works just fine in America.
You know, if I was Satan I wouldn’t mess with the western system. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” He’d be silly to tamper with something so effective.
I don’t think the devil could care less if people go to church. Furthermore, he doesn’t mind if they get really committed. After all, a fellow can miss a living relationship with Jesus sitting in his church pew and teaching Sunday School just as he can lying in the gutter drunk or pledging allegiance to an atheistic system. Satan’s not out to make everyone drug addicts, prostitutes, and pagans. His concern is with folks who care about Christ in a personal way.
Apathy accomplishes his purpose just as surely (if not more effectively sometimes) as a radical Muslim with a knife. It’s like we in the west know there is a spiritual wolf out there. Somewhere there is a game being played for keeps. But we stand little, if any, chance of getting to play in the real game or being called on to fend off the true beast. So we grow complacent and apathetic.
But I press the question: Do we have a real enemy and is our battle legitimate?
Yes! We have a real, legitimate, viable enemy. But, our enemy does not wear the uniform of a totalitarian state. He is not crucifying Believers on crosses outside of Denver, Detroit, or Des Moines.
His guise is apathy. He does not kill, maim, and destroy in the same fashion here in the west as he does behind the iron and bamboo curtains. But make no mistake: He does kill, maim, and destroy.
Subtleties are the order of the day here, and these serve his purpose just fine. You and I will probably not ever get so much as a bloody nose for the cause of the gospel, but the stakes are just as high spiritually for us as they are for our brethren in China, North Korea, and Iran.
I’m reminded of a quote from Chuck Colson’s book, Who Speaks for God?: “If we lose our freedom in this country, it won’t be because of heavy-handed laws…It will be because an apathetic church has grown sluggish and uncaring.”
We in the west have a high calling: No one is going to issue an ultimatum for us to choose between our faith and freedom. We must assume responsibility for this ourselves and do so diligently.
We have many opportunities to grow and be fed from the spiritual smorgasbord. There are “a thousand” books, conferences, downloads, and speakers online from which to choose. But we must not feed ourselves the fat, worthless, fast-food of religion and call it Christianity. We should commit ourselves to a well-rounded diet of God’s Word, making the same commitment to quality spiritual growth as Daniel and his friends did in Daniel 1:5-13.
Commit yourself in God’s grace to a personal time of prayer. I don’t mean a ritualized, formalized “bless this before we eat it” type of ritual with the Lord. He Himself likens our relationship with Him to a marriage.
It should almost go without saying, marriage communication is much more than, “How was your day?” as you stuff down some chicken casserole. Certainly it is that, but it goes a good deal farther.
Prayer, like marriage, is complete transparency and vulnerability. It is pouring out the inner recesses of heart and soul. It is listening intently and drawing out the subtleness of another’s thoughts. It is openness and honesty with sincere love and respect. This is marriage—and this is prayer.
Don’t settle for a surface relationship! Your Heavenly Father waits only for you and me to place our hands in His and give the go-ahead nod.
Commit yourself to quality thought. There are many who offer up platitudes and pith in the name of Christian thinking. Don’t be lulled into apathy by this fluff. Trying to grow spiritually on this pabulum is akin to healthy growth at the doughnut shop.
Much has been said about Christian faith being a “leap,” as into a hole with no bottom, a blind believing in something mystical and opaque. I disagree.
Yes. Christianity is a walk of trust and faith, and God is large enough that you will never figure Him out or find the conclusion of Him, but your faith is not blind, dark or even opaque. Investigate your belief from any direction and you choose. Put it under a magnifying glass, a microscope, or step back and view it through a telescope for that matter.
Be honest in your examination. If your faith fails, toss it. But if examined thoughtfully and with diligence, you will find that true faith in Jesus Christ will stand your scrutiny.
Our faith is rock solid! It is not blind belief. It is not a crutch. It is not an excuse. It is worthy of your life for it is a commitment to a relationship with God Himself through Christ. Don’t settle for anything else.
I’m not advocating that you become something you are not. I’m not into some pseudo intellectual trip or some zealot fraternity. I am merely pointing out the crucial necessity for diligence in our Christian lives. Anything short of this legitimacy of faith is apathetic, and both Jesus Christ and you deserve something—anything—more passionate than apathy.
Offering words of perspective and encouragement, a pastor named Bo Baker said to me many years ago, “Son, God can cut a lot of wood with a sharp ax.” Obviously, his words took root in my mind or I wouldn’t remember them forty years later. There’s a lot of wisdom in that simple analogy.
Years before this article, and years before Pastor Bo’s counsel, the Apostle Paul told his mentee, Timothy, “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Well said—for then and now!
When a man or woman becomes a Christian in many places around the world, the social system tests their commitment in a crucible of torture, isolation, compromise, and even death. If they aren’t for real, or don’t truly mean business in their faith, they’ll wash out with the first serious threat.
We in the west do not have that “luxury.” We must assume responsibility for our growth and maturation, calling the Spirit of God to take us deeper in our relationship with Him. If we fail, the apathy of western Christianity will swallow up the fire of our relationship with Christ Jesus.
Satan’s goal is simply to create an effective system whereby a man or woman misses God and His best. He can accomplish this through a totalitarian state that threatens persecution or he can threaten nothing, question nothing, and challenge nothing knowing that induced apathy is just as effective as inflicted affliction.
Don’t be deceived into thinking you can march to apathy’s lullaby. You can dance to that tune, but it is not marching music.