Recommended Reading:  Proverbs 4:20-27

We Americans tend to love our sports.  In all sports, you have the well-trained, disciplined players that focus on what they know, concentrate on the issues at hand and do their best at all times in order to win their game.  Those players will likely be out playing much of the game time.  You also have some players that are trained to be specialists in certain areas of their game – they are sent in for short periods of time to accomplish specific goals.  Their expertise is important to their team.  Then you have other players that love the game and love the idea of playing, but for different reasons just cannot seem to excel enough to get the job done when sent in to play.  Consequently some of these players tend to sit out most of the time and end up being nothing more than benchwarmers.

It is likely that some of those benchwarmers may have an actual physical reason that does not allow them to perform up to the necessary level to get the job done.  But there is also a good chance that some of them are there because they do not take the game as seriously as they should in order to perform successfully.  Maybe they do not study the playbook well enough to commit the plays to memory, therefore if sent in to play they do not really know what their role is.  Maybe they do not dedicate themselves to the physical routines necessary to build up their strength in order to have the endurance to play at their highest level.  In other words, they like the idea of being on the team and enjoy the accolades the team receives when they are victorious; but, they are basically riding on the coat tails of all the players that put forth the effort that is required to be successful, while they themselves sluff off.  

There is a chance that sports benchwarmers may be tolerated when younger – even put into the game for a time.  This may be the case even up through high school, but once they go to college they likely will not even make the cut to be on the team.  There will still end up being some benchwarmers even at this level, because the skills and dedication required are now higher and that person just does not have what it takes to perform up to that higher level. They may soon realize that they had been a big fish in a small pond before and now find that they are a small fish in a big pond.    

Once players move up to the professional level the expectations go up drastically.  They are now being financially rewarded for their skills, so perform they must or they will quickly find themselves cut from the team and their chance for all the rewards and glory they had anticipated are gone.

There are also a lot of benchwarmers in this game we call life.  We have all at least met some of them, if not known them intimately.  Although they are fully capable of doing what is necessary mentally or physically or both to be good at their job, they choose to not fully apply themselves in order to be truly successful at whatever they happen to choose as their occupation.  Maybe they will do just enough to skate by and keep their job and draw a paycheck.  But for some, if the demands become more than they want to deal with, they either quit or get fired.  Then the reactions from these people vary greatly.  Many of them, in fact we probably could say most of them, have an awakening and realize they need to do better.  They work to improve themselves and move forward.  But we unfortunately see some that would rather take the easy way out – rather than grasp what their shortcomings are and work to improve themselves they decide to just be a society drop out.  Then because our society has very generously provided a safety net they take advantage and sadly become nothing more than a moocher on society-at-large – a benchwarmer.

Unfortunately, the church does not have a shortage of benchwarmers – after all, the church is a microcosm of society.  So it stands to reason, as with sports teams, you will have your first string and your specialists that are the dedicated, hard-working, studious group that take things seriously.  They want nothing more than to be the very best Christian they can be.  They work hard, go above and beyond much of the time carrying more than their fair share of the load to ensure success in their own personal lives as well as the life of the church.  

You also have your second-string group – they want to do well and be successful Christians, but just do not have what it takes in the motivation department to be the very best they can be.  They put in some effort and step up to do some things they know they should do, but just are not quite “all in”.   

Then there are the benchwarmers.  They love being part of the team (church) and want to enjoy all the rewards for being a member of that team, but truly are pretty much there in name only.  They show up and go through the motions but rarely, if ever, do anything more than what they believe is absolutely required to stay in their spot on God’s team.

Proverbs 4:20-22 (NLT) says: “My child, pay attention to what I say.  Listen carefully to my words.  Don’t lose sight of them.  Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.”  If something penetrates deep into your heart it should be what you need to drive you to success, to be your best self.  When it is God’s Word put into your heart, those verses tell us that it will bring you life and good health.  But those words will not penetrate your heart without you reading them (more than once) and committing them to your heart and mind.  Studying, really studying, the best playbook for life – the Bible – will help you develop into the best “player” you can be for your team.

James 1:22-25 (NLT) says: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”  Or, to put that into the analogy of my theme – it would be like glancing at the game playbook and instead of really studying it and committing it to memory for use when it is needed, you walk away and promptly forget it.  You need to hear and read the instructions in life’s playbook (the Bible) then put it into practice, doing it over and over until it is part of you and comes naturally.  Then God can bless you and you will experience the success for yourself as an active participant, not just someone sitting by on the bench while others are doing the hard job.

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a story about a farmer and the results of how the seeds are sown.  Verses 19-23 (NLT) say this: “‘The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!’”     

Relating sports to that story – the first example is like the player that just glances at the information he thinks he might need to know then moves on and promptly forgets it.  Then there is the player that may study it a bit more in depth and believes he has done his job, but did not commit it to memory well enough to retain it.  The third player listens and studies but then starts to fret over possible mistakes he might make or the potential for being injured and will then struggle to do his best.  Finally you have the player that does all the right things – listens, studies, memorizes the playbook, works out physically and feels confident going into the game.  That player will likely play up to his full potential and come out at the end rejoicing at how he played the game. 

That last player is the one that will reap the many rewards both here on earth and the heavenly rewards awaiting him.  That is the objective we should all have in this game of life and our Christian walk.  The benchwarmers may have done just enough to make it to the final reward of heaven, but the rewards will be fewer for them than the players that worked harder to fulfill their destiny.

“Those who  expect the sermons they hear and the words they read to make them godly will be entirely frustrated unless they are diligent in meditating on the truth and applying it to their lives.  Simply sitting in a pew week after week will do nothing radical in a believer’s life.”  “Hearing, understanding, and agreeing without application is a self-deceptive dynamic.  It appears to be faith but it effects no change in the life of the hearer.  Something more is needed – diligence, for example. And action.”  (Chris Tiegreen)

I seriously doubt that I could be called someone that is a first string Christian.  But I pray that I can at least be considered a second string player.  However, that means I need to get more serious about my life and what I should be learning and doing.   I cringe to think that I could ever be viewed as nothing more than a benchwarmer in my Christian walk!  So I need to start asking God daily in my prayer time to help me work my way up to that first string – to help me become all He has destined me to be!  How about you?  Where do you stand on the team?

Written by Karran Martin – July 29, 2020         

6 thoughts on “Benchwarmers

  1. Well, I have been a sports fan (especially football) but that has cooled a lot over the past couple of years. And there is no doubt at all that you aren’t anywhere near a benchwarmer – you are definitely on the first string of God’s team!


  2. Another good one, Karran! Certainly made me stop and think about some things. You are so good at explaining things where I can understand them. Thank you for doing this blog and sharing it with us. I share it with others I think would enjoy it.


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