A Team of the Faithful Upon the Earth?
Yesterday morning, winter storm Decima blanketed the northern half of the United States with a layer of double-digit below zero arctic air, worsened in some locations by severe snow and wind chills that plummeted what it felt like to be out in the elements even further. The morning news featured a live report from the venue of one northern NFL team where a few hardy team tailgaters were already on-site several hours before the game, to support their team and spend that time outside in those sub-zero temperatures before entering the stadium for the big game later on that afternoon – one such contest featuring game-time weather conditions and temperatures which were forecast to eventually warm to a ‘balmy’ positive two degrees by comparison, with wind chills making it feel like approximately eighteen below – and thousands of those same sorts of fans would then additionally sit in the outside stadium for approximately three more hours to witness a game – a game, mind you – that really wouldn’t mean all that much of anything come Monday morning…
Meanwhile, in several states many miles further to the south, in temperatures and conditions which were a lot warmer by comparison – although admittedly still cold for where they were – there were many churches which cancelled their worship services and appointment with almighty God, due to the “cold” weather conditions.
So… have you ever stopped to wonder exactly how almighty God might possibly view such incredible worship of sports teams – such sacrificial worship of, and deep devotion to, the “sports and entertainment ‘gods’” (or idols if you will) – in light of His own people’s level of worship commitment? What does it actually say to God, when sports fans and worshippers will travel in hundreds of miles in some cases; show up several hours before the game; stand around for many hours in sub-zero temperatures in the parking lot long before their big event even begins; and then sit around another three hours or so in those same sub-zero temperatures and at a total overall cost for the day of several hundred or even thousands of dollars?
All of this, while at the same time some of His own blood-bought worshippers would, in much warmer temperatures by comparison, arbitrarily and willfully choose not to drive a mile or two in much lesser cold, to then bolt out of their heated cars and into a warm building to set in padded seats; but would instead, cancel their worship appointment with Almighty God altogether at the slightest hint of such conditions? And then, even on warmer days when they are willing to make such incredible ‘sacrifices’ of time and effort as to be in worship with their Lord and Savior, some might even complain – at least inwardly – about having to listen to a 45 minute lesson, because after all, that’s way “too long;” or, about “having to throw a few bucks” into the offering plate because the preaching, teaching, and outreach efforts of the Lord’s church really “aren’t worth it” (although the athletes that are paid millions of dollars a year to play a game are yet somehow worth what one has to pay to be there?).
Now let me make perfectly clear here that I am NOT talking about those sickly, physically-limited or aged saints whose health issues and infirmities simply prevent them from getting out in such conditions. I am NOT talking here about those who have no choice; those whose heart it breaks because they want to be in worship but their bodies can’t take the conditions for whatever reason; those whose spirit is overwhelmingly willing but their flesh is truly too weak or infirm. I am instead referring to those whose ‘flesh’ is fine, willing and able, but their spirit is weak!
Similarly, this same sort of sad scenario will more than likely play itself out again as early as this coming Sunday and repeatedly thereafter. You see, as I write this, this next upcoming Lord’s Day happens to fall on December 25th. How many parents do you think will choose (some of these probably being the same parents who will later on in life be heard to lament the fact that their own adult children aren’t living a life that puts God and His word first – and blaming the church in the process), of their own free will and nothing else, to keep their families home from their divinely-sanctioned and mandated worship appointment with the Lord God Almighty that day (Luke 22:15-20; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-36), supplanting it instead, with the man-made Christ-mass celebration, never once seen mandated or commanded in Scripture; that the Lord’s first-century church is hence never seen as celebrating; and that was the brain-child of the centuries-later born Catholic church? Perhaps still sadder yet, how many churches’ leadership do you think might wind up cancelling evening services altogether on the 25th due to either lack of interest, attendance, or commitment from the very congregation of God’s people they are responsible for instructing and overseeing ?
And maybe the most tragic of related and similar scenarios yet: What do you think it will say to almighty God about His place and priority in His people’s lives, when in a few weeks, some congregations of His own blood-bought people might even consider cancelling their evening worship service appointment with Him, in order to stay home and celebrate, participate in, and be infatuated with, the ‘worship’ of the Super Bowl sports ‘god?’ (Is it any wonder as we look around at the commitment, loyalty, willingness – and even eagerness – to sacrifice, that some of the sports and entertainment world enjoys from its followers, that many churches are now replacing the God-given gospel with more of those types of man-made manifestations in order to attract and hold more members and their much-coveted money and/or allegiance?)
You know, God’s people often lament in our world today, about the fact that God is not taken as seriously as He certainly should and deserves to be by the masses at large. Maybe when it comes to assigning the blame for that, we should start spending more time looking in the mirror and less time staring out the window. Maybe if more of God’s people might finally start finding Him more important and deserving enough of their time, effort, energy and priorities, to show up and set in a cold parking lot for several hours before worship services even begin because they’re so excited to be there and participate…; maybe when more of God’s people start hoping a sermon that is well into its third hour will go into ‘overtime’ because they are so into the experience of just being there…; perhaps when someone suggests that a family might possibly consider putting into the offering plate, what would be the equivalent of the price paid for all of their seats and treats at a professional football game and they readily comply and even happily increase it – because after all, this is for the almighty God who gave His only begotten Son that they might have their sins forgiven and spend eternity with Him seated in heaven…; maybe when they start cancelling professional sports games due to unsavory or unfavorable weather conditions but the Lord’s church in those areas still meets twice on Sunday, and all of those who are physically able to be there actually, eagerly choose to show up – early, both times – because the Lord is just that important and absolute top priority to them…; maybe, just maybe, the masses might then begin to take this God we claim to love and put first in our lives (with our lips at least), just a little bit more seriously. Such commitment certainly seemed to work in the first century (see for example, Acts 2:41-47, 5:42 – 6:7, 11:19-26, 14:19-23, and etc.)!
But as long as the football and sports and entertainment false gods’ fans and followers seem to exhibit far more devotion and dedication to showing up and worshipping their earthly entities than we do to showing up and truly worshipping our heavenly Father – and especially when we elevate their idols’ importance far above and beyond His in our lives by cancelling our first day of the week worship appointment with Him in order to participate in what their worshippers do – why should we expect the unsaved and uninformed to take God all that seriously, or to do any different?
For all of the vital, tragic, and thought-provoking questions considered in this article, surely the most intense one would be the question asked in Scripture by Jesus relative to our current direction: “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).”