Playing the Game Or Sitting It Out
by Fred Pruitt
Most of us come into spiritual Life out of some kind of desperation, looking for peace, forgiveness, escape or something else. It is always out of need. Someone we were visiting once viciously ranted to us about people “coming to Christ for the wrong reasons.” I think he missed the point. We all come for the “wrong reasons.” It’s pure selfishness, actually. We have no choice. It’s where we start.
We were in NEED. We didn’t even know what the need was, but we knew we had it. From our perspective, it was Love that drew us, out of this need, toward Himself, and it was the perfect means from “before the foundations of the earth” to draw us into His Life. (If we could come into Life for the right motivations or “reasons,” we would have no need to come!)
I think in large part my generation bought and sold a Christian “bill of goods,” a message that if you come to Christ, God will “meet all your needs.” He’ll meet your financial needs, your emotional needs, your health needs, your romantic-love-life needs, your worldly comfort needs. He’ll create harmony in your family and your kids will all grow up obedient, Christian and patriotic. Looking back, I can see that, at least in this country, it was more an offer of a “Christianized American Dream,” than it was the life of Christ. There’s actually nothing in the New Testament that even vaguely makes those promises. Jesus promises that many of His followers will suffer death and hardship for their testimony. Or worse, and some did. And still do.
What it really did, in my opinion, was to prolong and validate spiritual infancy as normal, because of the continual focus on “me.” What do “I” get out of it? I must “expect a blessing!” If I give a hundred dollars will God really send me a thousand? “I feel bad today, Oh please pray to the Lord that I will feel better.”
John and I were visiting someone new to us several years ago. As we were sitting talking, the lady of the house spoke up and told us she didn’t think God was sending what she had asked Him for and expected from Him. She had asked for a nice home, a good husband and a wonderful child. But none of that happened, she said. She hadn’t gotten the house she asked for, not the husband she had anticipated nor the right daughter, either! To top it all off, she was freely stating all these things with both of them, husband and daughter, sitting right there! No one spoke, we were so stunned.
That “me” focus has proliferated over the decades into a many-branched vine of self-focus, bringing on the “fix everybody” craze that could have been the only natural outcome. Its message to Christians: “You are all still sick. You have problems. You have deep-seated ‘blockages’ to Christ’s life in you. You need to uncover all the hidden stuff in you and deal with it, and you won’t be fully healed until you do.”
And when we swallow that line, and who of us hasn’t in one way or another, the sky’s the limit on “self-stuff” to find, uncover, and “deal with.” More than you can deal with in a lifetime!
This thought occurred to me the other day: If I accept the premise (I don’t) that my job is to cooperate with the Lord in purging and healing me of all the things that I did to make a mess of my life when the devil was in charge, which in my case was roughly the first 20 years of my life, then wouldn’t it stand to reason we should be done with fixing all that stuff at least after the same amount of time on the other side? But, as of now I’m about 49 years on the “Christ side,” more than 2/3 of my lifetime, and if I still looked at life that way, I’d still be trying to fix and perfect myself (with God’s help)!!
Why do I think that? It’s because after years of trying to change this or that, or stopping that and taking up this and never quite arriving at some other version of myself that I thought I should become, eventually I had to admit the real truth is that I’m not too different from the guy I was when I started this Christian life at age twenty-one. I have aged as normally as a man for my age. More than some, less than others. There have been many physical changes as well as psychological changes, too, but I’m essentially the same person I was, in a way.
And that would be the truth, except for one major thing, all these years later I now know I walk in the Light, as He is the Light Who enlightens my lamp. Through trial and error in those years, I was completely disabused of the notion that I had any righteousness of my own to contribute to the equation. And in being permanently divested of the heavy weight of being a self-responsible person, realizing I was a total zero when it came to righteousness, lo, here comes the righteousness of Christ, which He says is mine. (2 Cor 5:21) Since He paid for it by His own blood and body, to deny that He operates my life by His righteousness is something I cannot comprehend doing.
As we have said many times over, the problems of life are here to stay. And because of that, it is easy to continue in that “me” focus, always wanting this or that need “to be met.”
But the Sons of God are rising now in our time! And by that I mean everybody who in faith and heart include themselves among that number! The “me” gospel is on the run. It has run its course, and now it is time that the Body grows up. Because when the “me” – fix me, heal me, give me, make me, forgive me, help me, send me money – is dropped, our true purpose begins.
That’s what the expression “get yourself out of the way” means. It does not mean sitting on the sidelines watching Jesus run all the touchdowns. But it also does not mean we’re sitting on the sidelines nurturing our lacks of talent and ability (which is part of the “me” gospel) while commiserating with everyone else on the sideline bench. Anybody who plays on the team can tell you, when you’re playing the game, nothing is about “you.” You leave yourself on the sideline when you get in the game, forget yourself, and immerse everything you are and have into playing and winning the game.
Q: What makes the difference between the sideline sitters and the on-field players?
A: Faith, faith, faith and faith. Only faith!
Q: What about God’s choice? Isn’t it God who chooses who is sidelined and who plays in the game?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: And they are chosen by grace?
A: Yes, that’s true.
Q: Well, isn’t the grace the same for all? Should they not ALL play on the field?
A: Yes, we could say grace has chosen them all. Still, all do not play on the field.
A: The on-field players do not need constant reassurances and pep-talks about being team members, or to feel worthy to be on the team. Quite the contrary, each of the on-field players have come into an inner assurance regarding who they are and what position they play. They have accepted as fact that they are prepared, that they have what it takes to meet the opposite team on the field, and that they have been honed and honed in practice and scrimmage into a working organism, each working for and upholding the other, sufficient in every part. (We are speaking “ideally” here.)
The sideline-sitters either have less experience and are not yet ready to play, or they have experience and training but never master the full confidence needed to become good players. They are not lacking in ability or talent. They have the same potential as the players on the field, but have yet to find it within themselves and to lay hold upon it, to seize it. Instead, they are focused on their lacks and inabilities, and all faith is rewarded by its accompanying works.
Lots of us have been in the pasture for a while, learning, growing, often physically alone as regards getting together with others. People have written to me about this for years, and it is my experience also.
I think the shape of things is changing, in our “Christian” world, as slowly people begin grasping Who they are. Many of us have been in the situation of being mostly apart (physically) from other like-minded folk, so that day by day we have had to gut it out in faith somewhat alone. But I think there have been lots of things stirred up in all that alone-ness, and those stirrings are showing up now in the forefront of things.
Just this. The time is past that God’s people are content to just let “the preacher” handle the spiritual side of life. Instead, we are starting to see the beginnings of a “kingdom of priests” which will, as I see it, be a move away from organizing and having “ministries” as have proliferated so bountifully in the past. There will be too many people who Know for everybody to be something like, “Fred Pruitt Ministries, Inc.” We don’t function well within those types of borders anyway.
Instead I see the life of Jesus living out in housewives, executives, pub owners, waitresses, musicians (secular or “spiritual”), artists, refuse collectors, soldiers, stockbrokers, auto mechanics, etc., who, like you and me, have had to “gut it out alone” in the darkness of faith, to come to a full knowledge of themselves as Him in us, so that Christ is lived out in power and love in regular people living extra-regular lives.
I see in those “regular” lives the extra-ordinariness of Life, because the trial of our faith brings forth gold of the purest color and depth, so that in the abundance of the branches of the tree (which our lives become) many people find shade and rest and sustenance. This is something we don’t do or work toward. He has done it (“we know not how”—Mk 4:26,27) and left us the witness that He has become in us a peculiar treasure in a very plain pot. (2 Cor 4:7; 1 Pet 2:9).
But that “gutting it out alone” is not, obviously, to negate the wonderful Reality of you and I and the rest of the Body as One Person with each other and with Him, so that we are not really “alone,” but surrounded by the heavenly “cloud of witnesses,” and linked together in this life in the Spirit beyond the depths of our knowledge, whether we physically see each other or not. So we repetitively encourage one another in this new cyberspace Body of Christ, as well as those who are close around us.
I am convinced, that when someone comes up in my mind, it is a connection in Spirit, as personal, intimate and close as any other connection, but below the conscious level. When we speak words of faith for others, do not think it comes back void. Instead we are as if there with those others, laying on hands, touching in spirit even though we have not touched in flesh.
Do not think small deeds and quiet simple words have no strength or power. They have the complete attention of the All in all.
Looking at the True City, John the Revelator said: “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (Rev 21:22).
This is what I see also. The “Heavenly City” is the people of God, past, present, future, and it exists NOW, among us. It IS us! And as the Apostle said, there is no outer “temple” there, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it, meaning that the City you see, the people of God, IS the temple of the Lord, i.e., the full manifestation of His glory and presence. We see this in the Spirit, but we walk it in the flesh every day. We are not waiting to “walk the streets of glory on that Day,” because our feet touch the golden streets even now!
“And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15)
“But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)
God is faithful and patient to bring His will to pass in the fullness of its time. Everything has its season. This season is coming soon.