By Ronny Milliner
A number of passages in the New Testament picture the Christian as an athlete. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 9:24-27 that we are running a race for an incorruptible crown and in so doing we must keep our bodies in subjection. He spoke concerning the end of his life as finishing the course (2 Tim. 4:7). The Hebrew writer (10:32) instructed the early Christians, “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight (Greek-athlesin, comparable to our English word, “athletics”) of afflictions.” Then in 12:1 he said, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
On nearly every team, there are usually two or three players that are referred to as “bench-warmers.” These players usually offer very little in the way of participation in the game being played. We also have these type of players on the “church team.” Many of the members of the church sit and watch while a few are engaged in the heat of the game. There are many ways this fact could be illustrated. Usually just a few engage in personal evangelism (2 Tim. 2:2). Not very many are teachers as they should be (Heb. 5:11-6:3). Few participate in making efforts to restore the erring brother (Gal. 6:1). Other points could be given but the major point I would like to discuss in this article is the Christian’s duty to be “set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17).
Paul taught us, in Phil. 1:27, that we are to be “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” He instructed Timothy to “war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18), to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12), and to “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). We are to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Also, Jude instructs us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Other passages could be cited in teaching this point, but these should be sufficient.
But even after reading the teaching of the host of these passages, we find some sitting on the bench. While a few brethren engage in defending the truth against heretics, many sit idly by. I have heard some say, “We don’t have that problem here, why should we have any instruction on it.” “To be forewarned is to by forearmed.”
Yet another bad characteristic of some of these “bench-warmers” is that of being “side-line coaches.” If they do not care for the way certain players are participating in the game, even though it be according to the rules, they begin to cry aloud concerning foul play. The Christian’s struggle is a “fight” (2 Tim. 4:7). Paul wanted brethren to pray for him that he might have boldness in the fight (Eph. 6:18-20). Reproving and rebuking is not a pleasant task, but it must be done.
Let each of us realize that not lust a few preachers, elders, or Christians are to “fight the good right,” but all saints are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered” (Jude 3). U.S. Steel has an advertisement stating, “We’re involved.” As an athlete striving for the incorruptible crown are you “involved.” or are you a Christian bench-warmer?
Truth Magazine XIX: 41, pp. 651-652
August 28, 1975