“I’m sorry son, I don’t know who you are.”
“My name is Joey. I am here to play. I will play any position you think I’ll be good at.”
“Well, Joey, I would love to have you on the team, but I don’t believe you are quite ready to play tonight. We have practice Monday through Thursday for an hour right after school. The games are on Friday. Can you commit to that?”
“Oh yes, sir. I’m sure I can help the team. Whatever you want me to do.”
“Great to have you with us, Joey. I cannot give you a uniform or let you play tonight, but why don’t you sit on the bench, get to know some of the guys, and you can start fresh at practice Monday.”
Monday rolls around and there’s no sign of Joey. Several players tell you they had seen him in class. One even said Joey said he would see him at practice, but Joey was a no show.
It’s the same thing on Tuesday. By the time Friday rolls around, there has been no sign of Joey. However, once again, about 15 minutes before kickoff, here comes Joey, “Coach I am ready to play.”
“Joey, I’m sorry, but I cannot let you play. You haven’t been to any practices. You have not even picked up a uniform. If you want to play, if you are going to be of any use to the team, you must come to practice.”
“OK, I will see you Monday.”
After school Monday when you walk into the locker room Joey is there. You give him a uniform, assign him a locker, and he practices with the rest of the team. You are somewhat surprised. Joey has the potential to be an excellent player. He still has many things to learn; after all, he is a couple of weeks behind the rest of the boys, but with some practice, he will catch up.
At Tuesday’s practice, Joey is a no-show. The same is true with Wednesday and Thursday. Friday rolls around, and Joey is in the locker room putting on his uniform. You ask him to come to your office.
“Joey, close the door.”
Joey shuts the door behind him, and you begin to talk.
“Joey, when I said, you needed to come to practice to play in the games, I meant that you needed to come to all the practices. I appreciate that you showed up Monday, but what happened the rest of the week?”
“Well, coach, I wanted to be there, but I was swamped. Mrs. Smith gave us a big report due Friday, and I went home to get it done on time. I don’t see how I could have finished the assignment if I had taken a chance to come to practice.”
“There are other players in Mrs. Smith’s class. They were able to come to practice and get their reports done.”
As the conversation went on, Joey continued to offer one excuse after another. Finally, coach ended the chat with this, “Joey, you cannot be a productive part of the team without coming to practice. You don’t know the plays or what the game plan is. You have talent, you have potential, but I cannot use you if you do not put forth the effort.”
Christian, now take the above story and apply some spiritual things.
The game is life.
The practices are church services. At church, we should worship, learn some things, have our heart convicted, fellowship with other Christians and have our lives changed by the Holy Spirit. These things should be happening every day, but church is where all these activities are concentrated and prepare us for the everyday living we must face. I have heard people say things like, “I can worship God at home just as I can at church.” Honestly, you should be worshiping God just as much everywhere as you do at church.
However, if you are willingly breaking His command of joining in fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25) can we claim to be worshiping Him? The church is the training ground for life. Compared to sports; church is our practice field. How effective we are as a Christian in life is directly related to how well we learn and use our talents in church – our practice field.
The coach is Jesus Christ. He wants to use all His players, and He desires to have more players on the team. He gives every player an opportunity to succeed, but for them to be ready for the game of life, He must prepare them on the practice field. They must learn the plays – the Bible’s teachings on living life. The players must be familiar with the game plan – what He wants each of us to do – what our role is on His team).
Lastly, you are one of the players. Are you Joey? The one who is never there and always has excuses on why he cannot participate in practice often and therefore never gets used by the coach in the game. Alternatively, are you one of the other players? Always there, always part of the team, ready to start or jump off the bench, whatever the coach needs.
Joey has talent, he has potential, but coach could not use Joey because he was unfamiliar with the playbook – the Bible – and did not attend practice enough to be useful on the field.
Christian, in the game of life, how useful are you to the coach?
Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. Email him at email@example.com.