I guess I’m kind of a hero. I don’t mean to brag, but I HAVE kind of saved the planet and at times even the universe more times than I can count. I have persevered against insurmountable odds, faced off against monstrous enemies who should have surely ground me into a pulp, and through it all kept my sense of style without wrinkling my clothes or messing up my hair. I am a video game hero… nay, LEGEND. I have a feeling you are probably pretty famous in the right quadrants of the galaxy as well. Now pardon me while I pause the game and go dust and vacuum. These dishes won’t wash themselves either.
While that was obviously meant in jest (except for the household chores, those are definitely REAL), some of that may sound familiar to you, and some of it may not. We all game for different reasons, after all. For some of us it is the thrill of competition, for others it is the ability to play through a story and inhabit a character we could not be in the real world. Some of us live out our fantasies, and others find real-life connections. It may be a way to pass the time on your phone while waiting in line or it could be the reason you race home just in time to join your friends on a raid. Whatever your reason, we have all joined together in this hobby that is dictated by our interactions with it. And it all begins the moment you press “Start”.
Join me with an abstract thought for a moment. What if, in that video game’s world, you had never pressed start? Pretending that the environment within that game exists outside of your choices until your moment of interaction, many times the game world was in a pretty good spot until you joined in. If you never press start, your character never initiates the action that causes war to begin. The choice you made to start the game has dramatic repercussions on all of the characters within…. some will get hurt, others will die, and princesses will move to another castle. All of the chaos and collateral damage that exists throughout the game is all due to the choice of the player to begin the story. And it all could have been avoided if you had simply chosen to leave that game on the shelf and let the characters within continue living their lives without your interference. Suddenly, I’m not feeling quite so heroic.
The great thing about gaming is that our choices exist within a realm of little to no actual consequence, providing ample room for mistakes and a large canvas on which to tell a story that can be restarted at any time. Despite the emotional attachments that can be made to these fictional characters, it is nice to know that no actual lives have been harmed by my gameplay. Real life is much less forgiving. And just like my choice to begin a gaming adventure will have a massive ripple effect on each and every character in that gaming world, my choices on what paths to take and what adventures to explore in the real world have a cause and effect that often times keep me up at night. Just like pressing start in a video game, my decision to begin a life of serving Christ has had both immediate and long-reaching repercussions that have not only affected my life, but the lives of others around me. And unfortunately, not all of the effects are positive because not all of my choices have been good ones.
There have been times I have wondered if the world was better off without the testimony of a flawed believer like me. I have been concerned that each time I press “start” on one of these columns that I am extending my failure into the lives of those that read it. But if the enemy has ever tried to use your past or current mistakes to cause you to second-guess what you are able to do for the kingdom of God, this is for you.
Hebrews 11 is famously called the “faith chapter” in the Bible and contains a listing of some of the heroes of the faith… a “Hall of Fame” or “High Score” list, if you will. And the names on this list are quite daunting… Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Samuel… this is the Who’s Who of famous biblical characters right here. And they have epic stories of faith in the Bible that make it easy to understand why they are included. But their stories would not be complete without the missteps that they took as they walked their paths, and the Lord did not wait for them to become “perfect” just so He could use them.
Let’s start with Noah, the man of God who was hand chosen as the only one worthy to repopulate our sinful planet. But it wasn’t long after he parked the ark that His sons found him drunkenly passed out without so much as a pixelated loincloth to cover him. Or maybe father Abraham is more your speed… just don’t bring up the whole “Ishmael” episode or it will start him and his wife fighting again. Jacob was a special kind of scoundrel that only a mother could love (and it seems only she did). Moses fulfilled his mission of freeing the people from Egypt even as he complained that he was under-qualified and out of his league. The list goes on and on as these and so many others dared to press start on their stories even while they still struggled with internal issues that often came to light at the worst possible time. Samuel’s ineffective parenting of his corrupt sons led to the dismissal of the judges and the anointing of a king. David sat the wrong war out and got himself into a heap of trouble with a showering woman that had massive collateral damage including costing his own infant son his life.
None of these are good things, and each of these had consequences that dramatically impacted each of these men and many others around them. But these followers of Christ did not allow their weak humanity to prevent them from pressing start on their journey. You may have committed none of these sins listed above, or you may have committed all of them. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, you have a mission and a purpose and if you are waiting to press start until you are “holy” enough… well, let’s just say it’s going to be a long wait. Satan is counting on us to disqualify ourselves from service through our mistakes and guilty consciences, and I will raise my hand and say that he has used that exact strategy to silence me more times than I care to admit to.
The truth is God uses us in our WEAKNESS to display His strength. It is not an encouragement to sin, but simply an acknowledgement that we will sin, we will fail, and we will reach out for that “restart mission” button many times over the course of our lives. But we must get back up and press start again and continue saving the world around us. If God was looking for a perfect vessel He wouldn’t have chosen a human, because there has only been one perfect one so far. He chose you, just as you are, and He needs you to save your world.
Yes, pressing start has repercussions. It puts things in motion that cannot be put back in place. Everyone around you will be affected by your choices, both wise and unwise. But don’t let fear or regret keep you from acting on what the Lord has placed in your heart. If Abraham had stopped at Ishmael he would have never had Isaac. Samuel could have quit when his sons turned out to be some real pieces of work, but then he would have never found and annointed David. If David had quit on life after the Bathsheba catastrophe he would have never fathered Solomon. And it goes on and on. People you may have not even met yet are counting on you to press start. I can guarantee you that I am as unqualified as you are but with the Lord on the inside of us we will accomplish our purpose. After all, this world isn’t going to save itself. Let’s go be heroes…