I always wanted to learn how to play chess. I suppose someday I will. My 12-year-old daughter knows how and can probably teach me. But one thing I know how to play is checkers. It was one of my favorite games as a kid. I still enjoy it to be honest. I love setting up jumps, and who doesn’t love being “kinged”? King me!
Being a pastor, one of the things I’m trying to grow in is listening to God while I’m praying. I have a tendency to talk a lot to God but not listen. Recently, while I was listening, God spoke pretty clearly to me. He gave this thought about the general approach to our relationship with Him that I see so prevalent in our time: We’re playing checkers while the devil is at war.
I’m not saying everyone is doing this. There are plenty out there who take their faith very seriously. I probably take it seriously enough for most of us (I’m praying for God to help me lighten up a little this year and not just in poundage). But, in general, I’d say the way the average person approaches their faith is like a simple game.
We like the personal effects of Jesus in our lives, how He loves us and makes us feel better about ourselves. But we primarily try to add Jesus in where it’s convenient while keeping the dominating driving force of our lives upon ourselves. Our preferences, our pleasure, our happiness remain central. Jesus is an add-on.
Meanwhile, while we’re playing a game, our adversary has been plotting this war against God’s bride for thousands of years. The state of the Church today has everything to do with the fact that Satan has been actively working and sowing seeds of doubt and disillusion in the Church for millennia.
I am not condemning church leaders. I don’t think any good comes from that. In fact, most pastors I know are taking their jobs very seriously. I’d say that nearly 100% of pastors I’ve met are in ministry for the right reasons and want to build God’s Kingdom.
I’m also not condemning the Church. I think many in the Church today have every intention of putting God first while they’re together with other believers. But the influence of other ideas is so strong today that we don’t even get out the door without being distracted and taken off course. It used to last at least until we got in the parking lot, sometimes through lunch discussion. Now, I find we’re distracted immediately following church or small group sessions, if not during.
My point? We need to wake up. We’ve allowed the enemy to lull us into a state of busyness and distraction where it takes everything we’ve got just to line up enough pieces of our lives to make it to church once or twice a month. Let alone small groups. Let alone serving. Let alone true, authentic community that has the power to shape us into the image of Christ.
What do we do? Well, I’m kind of hoping you have some ideas because I could use some. I’ve tried a lot of things. But one thing I know is this: It’s not a matter of gritting our teeth and forcing some more Jesus-time onto our calendars. This isn’t a scheduling issue. It’s a heart issue. I often say: “Whatever consumes our attention and our affection is what we worship.”
The Bible in several places explicitly says that we become like what we worship (2 Kings 17:15; Jer. 2:5, NIV – “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves”). Are we becoming more like Jesus? If not, our attention is misdirected and our affections are misaligned. Which is right where the enemy wants us. He wants us to put our faith on the back burner.
“There’s always tomorrow. There’s always next year,” he taunts. “Go ahead, keep playing games. I’ve got you right where I want you.”
What do we do? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Featured Image by Darron Birgenheier