Did you ever play the Christian version of chance as a kid? It is kind of like flipping coins for Christians. You call heads or tails in the air, and whatever side it lands on, God was on your side, and you won. Or when we played basketball and didn’t have a clear call to a play, if we got the ball back and made the shot, we would credit God for clearing up the call. I know these were just silly games that we played, and no one really believed that God was more on their side than the other guy. But the more life goes on, the more I realize that Christians get an attitude that God is on their side.
Go along with me for a moment on this because I know that this may have some shock value to it. Most Christians believe that God is on their side. I mean, I really must say that I have believed this. But I came across something today that has made me think about this a little more seriously and maybe adjust my thinking to be a little more accurate.
Have you ever thought about the proverbial prayers prayed at sporting events? What prayers are the ones being answered? Are they the ones with the most Christians on the team? Or maybe it is the team with the most people praying. For instance, there are plenty of people who believe that God is a Cubs fan over a White Sox fan. I know. A few of them are in my church. But does God really pick sides and stamp His blessing on one team over another?
Not to trivialize this previous scenario, but think about a more serious life experience. What about people who are going up for the same job promotion? One person is a Christian and the other person isn’t. Or maybe it is between two Christians. Who has the advantage? Is it the stronger Christian? Or is it the Christian over the non-Christian? I know a lot of Christians who believe that they should have the advantage and get the promotion. If they do get the promotion, they believe it is because God is on their side. But I also know a lot of Christians who feel like God let them down if the other person gets the promotion over them. It makes sense that if God is on our side. We should have the advantage.
Now I do believe that God blesses us in many ways in life. I have no doubt that there are also great advantages to being a Christ-follower. I have personally seen God’s blessing often in my life, and I know that it is because of Him that I am where I am today. So with that said, you might be wondering what in the world I must be getting at. So let me share a few verses I have just read that have challenged my thinking a little about which side God chooses to be on.
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’ The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so” (Joshua 5:13-15).
Here are some important insights that we can gain from these few verses. First of all we need to realize that Joshua is the leader of Israel at this time, which is God’s chosen nation. In other words, he is the leader of God’s people. Most commentaries agree that the commander of the Lord’s army is Jesus Himself. So Joshua is meeting with God!
Joshua asks if God is for Israel or for his enemies. And God replies neither. Did you get that? Neither. This shakes up what I thought happened when I became a follower of Christ. I thought that meant God moved on my side. But in reality, God doesn’t show up in my life and conform to my ways. I may try to make Him, but He keeps slipping out of my boxes. Instead, God shows up in all His holiness and calls for me to take off my pride and humble myself before Him and conform to His ways.
There is a big difference in us thinking that God is on our side or thinking that we are on God’s side. When God is on my side, I am leading and I’m in control. What I say is right, and the world better fall in line behind my lead. I am in a position to judge others and put them in the place they are supposed to be. Life is all about me. The world revolves around me and so does God—He’s on my side, you know!
So many people in the Church live life like this. They have the corner market on Jesus. God is on their side, and they are arrogant enough to let the world know this. And this is why so many Christians are considered judgmental. It is because they believe God is on their side conforming to their plans. The problem is that this is not true. And when we live like it is true, we end up distorting God’s image.
But what if we believe we are on God’s side? Does that make any difference at all? I believe it makes all the difference in the world. First of all, if I join God’s side, that means He takes the lead. I am His follower. My position is that of humility and submission. Humility is not weakness though. Joshua went on to lead the army of Israel to defeat Jericho. But it was clear that this meeting caused Joshua to be in submission to God. If I am on God’s side, my call is to love others and serve them. I may still receive God’s blessings in many ways, but it is because I am with God, not because God is with me!
When we as the Church live this way, the whole world has a chance to be turned upside down. The early Church joined God; they didn’t lift up themselves. Jesus even said that if He would be lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself. He would get others to join Him in this journey of life. The Gospel message is about us joining God in the greatest relationship we will ever know. Don’t settle for the illusion that God is on your side. Join His!