When Christians Play Spiritual Paintball

“Why is this so hard?” the woman asked me.

She’d been listening to me teach about God’s call on the life of the Christian writer and our responsibility to live that calling through faith.

“I’m sorry?” I asked for clarification.

“If God has truly called me to write for Him, why is it so hard?”

I paused because I totally get that question.

When we’re young in our faith (and sometimes beyond that), we believe the hardest thing we’ll ever do is discern God’s will or calling for our life’s work. We believe that discovering that truth will be like slipping the right key into an ancient door, behind which is stored every imaginable treasure.

Really (and those of us who are mature in the faith should teach this truth to others), really, it’s like the opening scene of Indiana Jones Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Indy carefully replaces the golden treasure he’s sought with a bag of sand and believes he’s in the clear when suddenly, every ancient booby trap known to man is unleashed and he’s on the run for his life.

THAT’S what it’s like to discern the will of God for one’s life and take a step in the direction of obedience. In many ways, those immediate trials, hardships, and barriers are part of the confirmation that you’re onto God’s plan.

Congratulations!

Following Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart, though many of us are. It’s okay to come to Him even if you fall prey to every imaginable fear (as I do – you know, dogs, the dark, heights, fast cars, new experiences, failing, opposition, conflict, yeast, other people.) If we’re not quaking in our boots a bit about following Jesus, then we’re not paying attention.

Jesus walked on water. He opposed self-righteous, religious leaders. He loved the unlovable. He created conflict, made enemies, was rejected, mocked, scorned, betrayed, contradicted, beaten, abandoned by His friends, publicly humiliated, and stoned. Walk a mile behind those dusty sandals.

But even if we’re wobbly kneed and faint of heart, He welcomes us to follow and provides what we need to stand.

Here’s the thing, whatever God’s specific call on our lives, we’re following Him into the great battle for souls. And it’s as real a battle as the one encountered by the Israelites.

God gave Israel the promised land. We all remember that, yes? It was His gift to them and it’s confirmed throughout Scripture that it was their destiny to possess the land – deeded freely to them by the One who created it.

So, there they stood on the border looking in and He directed them to fight for what He’s given them.

Was He with them in the fight? Yes. Did He provide them with numerous and lasting victories? Yes. But, it was a real fight. People were hurt. People died. People aged and wore out before attaining the entire promise and in 2019, Israel is still actively defending what God promised was theirs.

Too many modern Jesus-followers think that walking in faith is like playing paint ball. It resembles battle. It’s as engaging as battle. Sometimes it stings a bit. But nothing’s really at stake and no one ever really gets seriously injured.

That’s paint ball and laser tag. That’s not what we’re about. If that’s what following Jesus looks like to you, maybe you’re not doing it right.

When we grow enough in Christ to receive our specific assignment – raise a family in His name, pursue a career in His name, create art in His name, lead people in His name, teach the Bible in His name, care for the planet in His name, drive an Uber in His name – whatever that assignment is, when we take a step in the direction of obedience, it’s like we’ve toed the line in the DMZ.

Something stirs in the spiritual realm and enemy forces take notice.

It’s not something to fear. Truly. Because God is with us. When we draw near to Jesus, He defends us, protects us, and enables us to stand.

But, the stakes and the opposition are real. If we don’t expect it to occur, we can yield to confusion or discouragement. If we continually crave an easier path, we can become spiritually lazy and inattentive. If we whine and moan the whole way, it tarnishes our testimony. If we pretend it’s not real, we can become paralyzed in our place.

Alternately, if we are prepared for what’s coming, we can brace on the foundation of Jesus’ love and truth. If we understand the reality and the stakes, we can press into our God in faith and persevere. If we keep our eyes on Him, we’ll see Him in victorious glory and we’ll endure in ways we couldn’t have imagined on the day we took our first step.

Paint ball is fun, but it’s a diversion, a sport, an entertainment – it’s not what followers of Christ are called to when we choose to follow Jesus.

Yes, it’s hard. But, Jesus-followers do hard things. Jesus did the hardest thing of all and walked away from death with our eternal lives in the palms of His hands. We can join Him in the hard things we’re called to, too, because He is Emmanuel – God with us.

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3 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Gerhard Papenfus says:

    Wonderful! True! Very encouraging!!

  2. Harris says:

    Nailed it!

  3. Rob McCullough says:

    Very good Lori! This is most definitely a time when people need to hear the truth about walking with God so they know it’s a real battle, but He IS with us and He does supply our every need.