Summary: The game is decided by those who get in the game, not by those who sit in the stands! It is Game Day. Are you on the field?

Get Out of The Stands

I. Introduction

Everything leads up to this. Long hours. Early hours. Late hours. Exertion and often exhaustion. Sweat. Soreness. Mundane. Taxing. It is called practice. Athletes young and old put themselves through grueling and mind bogging disciplines and crazy routines that are designed to prepare the body and the mind for one purpose and one purpose alone. All the practice, all the drills, all the efforts for one thing alone . . . Game Day. It is game day that makes all of it worth it. It is game day that allows the athlete the opportunity to discover whether or not the practice has paid off. It is game day that reveals holes in preparation that must be addressed. It is game day that becomes so important that the pains of practice disappear.

However, in our society we have developed such an aversion to practice that what we want to do now is skip all the hard work and become experts from the stands. Haven’t you met someone who has never taken a snap, never thrown a pass, never studied a playbook but they sit in a recliner and become arm chair quarterback. That even happens outside the confines of sports doesn’t it? This person has never balanced a budget, made major decisions that other people’s livelihood are tied to, set policy or hired/fired and yet from the water cooler they have all the answers. This has lead us to a proverbial “we”. When the guys or girls that put in all the hard work day after day take the field and all the practice pays off and they come out on top . . . we say “we won.” Or if they came up short on game day we duck our head because “we lost!” When the truth is “we” didn’t really do anything. The reality it is the people on the field/in the driver’s seat/in the big chair sitting at the big desk who won, lost, triumphed or came up short. In the stands, but convinced we are in the game.

I have observed some things about the stands. Even when I am the one in the stands I have learned that . . .

In the stands you can critique.

Family can talk about family but let someone who isn’t family talk about my 6th cousin on my uncle’s aunt’s grandmother’s side and its on man. Right? Why do you think players get so upset at reporters when the reporters seem to have all the answers? Why do you think players get angry when they hear an analyst criticize one of their teammates? The player gets angry because they know the outsider doesn’t see all that effort, time, study and strategy that has gone into the game plan. It is easy to snicker from the stands. It is accepted (especially in this day) to make judgements from the cheap seats. We can be cruel from the crowd. The distance from the stands to the field causes us to feel safe to critique. From the saftey of the seats we feel entitled or enlightened to criticize.

In the stands you can root with no risk.

We want our team to give every ounce of energy and hold nothing back. We demand every ounce of effort. We want them in the weight room. We want them to watch their diet (while we are holding popcorn and sugar water in our hands.) We don’t want them to ever take a day off. Never let down. Work. Prepare. Stay focused. But those who root have no requirements. We just want to walk in on game day. We forget about the game until the next one. We don’t prepare. We don’t have to focus. We don’t have to plan. We just want the game to be good when we get there. I want the worship team on key. I want the preacher holy. I want the greeters friendly. I want the kids team funny. I want the sound right, the temp right, the length right. But I want it that way with no personal investment or effort.

In the stands you don't really win!

The stands are safe. The stands are easy. The stands are optional . . . You can show up late and leave early. Although in the stands you may experience excitement you will never experience a win. Not really! You don’t get the trophy. You don’t get the invitation to the White House. You don’t get the parade. You don’t get the ring. You don’t get your jersey hung in the rafters. You don’t get the bonus. To win you got to get in. Fear keeps many of us out of the game. We are afraid of the criticism or the risk. Maybe we are afraid to get in the game because we have experienced failure in our past. So, the result is we sit in the stands and we never get to experience the win. We have even done this to church. We have turned church into a spectator sport . . . I show up and watch you sing at me, you preach at me, you charge me a little entry fee then I go home. If church was good or if you hear a story of someone in the crowd who had an incredible experience, then you can say “we won.” But the truth is your life hasn’t been changed. Your sickness hasn’t been healed. You family has been transformed. Why? You aren’t winning until you personally get in the game yourself. The fruit of winning comes from the seed that is planted behind the scenes.

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