Once a year South Carolinians gather alongside one another to experience the annual South Carolina State Fair. Oh, the flavor and aroma of fried Oreos, donut hamburgers, savory mushrooms, sugar coated funnel cakes, and the famous Fiske fries. Who can resist the bright lights of amusement rides, the laughter of kids, smiling faces of families, and the carnies who work with immense pride for their trade. This is an opportunity families take once a year to engage memories of the past and create ones for the present. The state fair is such a neat picture of how we often imagine the Christian Life.
Once you enter the gates of the South Carolina State Fair you are bombarded with opportunity. You see show schedules, food vendors, concert staging, and of course the adrenaline infused rides that roar with screams of excitement. Just as the entrance of the fair offers great opportunity so does the Christian life. You have the opportunity to pass by every vendor, every ride, every concert, & every person and simply check the box of attending the fair. You can do the very same thing as you walk through the Christian life. The opportunities for service, discipleship, worship, prayer, etc. are all present, but all to often we bypass each one. Some would rather attend the Christian life rather than participate in it.
You’ve already parked the car and have ventured seemingly miles to the front ticket booth to pay for your admission ticket. You've committed to the decision of attending the South Carolina State Fair. Once you swipe the card or slide the cash across the desk you’ve paid the price, you've checked the box of attending the South Carolina State Fair. Essentially, you could then turn around and walk back to your car, get in, crank it up, and drive home. You could even post on Facebook or whatever your favorite social media outlet is, about how you attended the fair. You would absolutely be speaking truth, you have the ticket and the receipt to prove it. That seems a bit odd though, that someone would show up, commit, and yet walk away without participating in the events of the fair. Yet, to often we find ourselves simply attending the Christian life. We show up, we attend worship, we attend bible study, we attend “gatherings”, yet we don't engage and participate. Why would we invest our lives to such a calling as the Christian life to simply go through the motions or “check the boxes” and not be obedient to the teachings of Christ? What is holding us back from being participants in the Christian life?
I’ll be the first to tell you that you will never find me on a roller coaster again. Ive been there and done that, and know that the good Lord wouldn't want that for my life. But my fear of roller coasters or most rides for that matter doesn't stop me from participating in the other options at the fair that “tickle my fancy”. I love the vendors, the shows, and some rides that are slower in nature. I love the people we encounter, and the atmosphere that were surrounded by. I feel that all to often we let our fears dictate our pursuits of God. We often sit on the sidelines and walk by great opportunities because our fears blind our ability to see what lies around us. I must be transparent in saying, I get “black out” scared when I'm on a ride that has some sort of drop in it. When I became a Christian I knew that the life i vowed to live wouldn't be a lazy day on the chair lift. I knew that there would be roller coaster rides awaiting me. I knew there would be times that I would be terrified to take the next step. Its in those times i heard the sweet voice of God telling me, “It’s ok son, take the next step” and I did.
Is it true that we often attend the Christian life because we are afraid of the next step of participation? God calls us to be a servant of Him, to walk in faith knowing that everything will be taken care of. God payed for your ticket at the entry booth, he simply wishes for you to participate in the growth and development of His kingdom. It cant get any more exciting than knowing you are an heir of the king! A king who's granted you a kingdom in heaven, a king that simply wishes for us to engage in the pursuit of Christ living.
So how do we go from attendees to participants ? What would that look like as we parallel the state fair with the Christian life? As a Christian, you've already committed your life at the ticket booth. You've offered your heart to God in return of being an heir of the King. (Mic Drop) As you walk through the fair imagine your life. Imagine opportunities you miss daily to share the gospel with others that haven't yet heard it. The fair is packed with people, I'm certain not all are going to heaven. Now, don't let this seem as though I'm expectant of you to become the state fair evangelist. This is simply an illustration on how we often operate. The roller coaster’s, slides, haunted houses, stage designs, lighting, etc doesn't do itself. Neither does the work that needs to be done for Christ. As bible study leaders, Awaken Kids volunteers, custodial volunteers, production volunteers, etc. give their time to pursue the calling of God in their life, so should you. Have you found an outlet to serve? Not an outlet to “check a box” but to actually serve as a servant of Christ? The concert is about to begin, just before the show the band takes a moment to remain still, a time of reflection prior to giving their all. When was the last time you took time to pray? When was the last time you time to offer thanksgiving to the God who provides the next breath? There is a tremendous need for electricity at the State Fair. Everything is in need of a power source for their success in operation. In worship, are you really listening to what God is saying to you? Are you becoming energized in his power and grace? Its ok to take the safety cover off your outlet and really get plugged in!
As the crowds dissipate and people begin to head home for the evening we sense a somber tone amongst the state fair grounds. We then see the lights shut off one by one, and the movement of each ride begin to slowly stop. The beauty of those moments is that those rides, those vendors, those concerts, don't leave until their called home. That gives us hope for the next day, hope for the next opportunity to punch our ticket and get to work. God will not fail you. He gives you hope for the next day, he provides endurance and courage to continue. You may not like all the rides the fair has to offer and I'm certain you wont like all that you encounter in your Christian life. But just as those fair lights grow dim, there is hope for tomorrow when they are brighter than ever. Be encouraged to know that each day offers new hope. Be encouraged to know that God provides the courage needed to participate in the Christian life.
As we venture together in our walk with Christ, i commit to serving alongside you. I commit to experiencing the things that terrify us most (not roller coasters) and battling against them. For us to merely attend the Christian life would be a travesty. Participating in the Christian life, is more than showing up!