The Battleground and Playground of Life
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The Battleground and Playground of Life
1 Kings 3:5-15
July 3, 1863 marks the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil war. This also mark the day of one of the bloodiest and quickest battle in American history. This marks what is known as Pickett’s Charge. It was one of the costliest mistakes that the confederate army never recovered from both militarily and psychologically. The charge was to take cemetery hill from the Union Army. Though the Confederate army out manned and out gunned the union army they seemed very ineffective as they had to pass through an open field to get to the wall protecting the union army. The Union army had the high ground and because of that they were able to completely annihilate the confederate with only one artillery brigade. With in minutes the union army killed 1123 men, wounded 4019, and captured 3750. The confederate army started out with 12,500 men and lost nearly half within minutes of battle beginning. The Union army had 10,000 men and only suffered with 1500 wounded or killed. This all happened because the Union army had the higher ground. With the higher ground they had the advantage over their enemy. The same is the case in our lives as Christians.
In our scripture from 1 Kings this morning we see an all too familiar story of an exchange of powers from one king to another. David’s son Solomon takes the throne and is given a dream in which he speaks with the Lord. The Lord offers him a gift to ask whatever he wishes from him and it will be granted. Rather than to obtain material wealth and respect from other nations he asks for wisdom in how to lead this nation of Israel. Instead of focusing on entertainment and the pleasures of the world he focuses on how to perform the job set out before him. He is making a battleground decision instead of a playground decision. He asked for tools to aid him in the battleground of life as a king instead of the riches and entertainment that can come from being a king. Because he asked for the skills for battle the Lord decided to grant him both battleground tools and playground equipment. To this day there has been no king or leader so adorned and so rich as that as a comparison to Solomon. The interesting thing we see though is that this battleground mode of Solomon did not last forever. Eventually the playground began to take over his life.
I am always amazed every time I read about Solomon how the same man given this dream was so humble and so pure and yet he was able to fall so far. As soon as he began to receive the pleasures of the world that God promised he would receive he began to shift away from the battleground and onto the playground. Thankfully it does not seem that this lasts forever. Within the book of Ecclesiastes, we see a changed Solomon writing to his son about how he fell from the battleground to the playground. He admits that he never withheld any pleasure of the world from himself. He had women, money, parties, fame, and every possible comfort that you could think of. He had the best of everything and yet none of those things could satisfy him in the end. On the surface he seemed like he enjoyed the entertainment of the playground of life. However, I think deep down he longed for the battle that he originally set out to fight. Sure, it is nice to once in awhile relax and let loose. However, if we stay that way forever then we will never feel fulfilled and Solomon is a huge example of the consequences of playing for too long.
In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to spread the good news while healing and serving people along the way. He describes for them though what the battleground will be like. It was sort of like a Christian service disclosure statement. He first tells them to be shrewd with their actions as they will be like innocent sheep among wolves and while being shrewd as snakes, they should also be innocent as doves. He tells them to be on guard because there will be a battle against the religious leaders of that area. He spares them no information of what will happen as they will be brought before the local leaders and flogged in front of everyone. He tells them not to worry when they are arrested about what to say as the Spirit will speak for them. He says that families will betray each other on account of this message. Children will rebel against their parent’s teaching and put them to death. Finally, he tells them that they will be hated by everyone but they should stand firm because those who do will be saved in the end.
This is quite the job description. This is the battleground that Christians are called to. If we are truly fighting the good fight and doing the work of God then we should expect to have some push back from the rest of the world. It is not all easy and fun but it is a fight worth fighting for. However, I think Satan likes to scare us from the battleground and therefore he sends us the distractions of the playground to take us off track. I am reminded of the book Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian and Faithful must enter through Vanity Fair. All the pleasures and entertainments of the world are put before them. This was the playground of life and everyone was offering them entertainment to enjoy the party with them. However, when they refused to join the fair they were brought before the court and found guilty of trying to stay on the battleground instead of participating on the playground. Therefore, Faithful lost his life but in doing so was saved and was able to enter the celestial city before Christian. Christian was about to see the same fate until he was rescued by Hopeful. Hopeful had a glimpse of the battleground from the example of Christian and Faithful and he had hoped that he could find better meaning, purpose, and reward on the battleground instead of the playground.
John Bunyan does a great job describing the difference of the playground that we see that Solomon had indulged himself with and the battleground that Jesus describes in Matthew 10. The battleground may not seem like very fun or entertaining on the surface however there is so much more meaning and fulfilment compared to the playground. We have a choice to make when it comes to how we live our lives as Christians. We can remain on the playground, take life easy, and enjoy what the world has to offer, or we can be out in battle finding meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, I think we have had it too easy out here in this country. Our Laws have protected us from the persecutions of battle that Jesus had described in Matthew 10. Therefore, it is easy to find ourselves on the playground entertaining ourselves with the way we worship and come together. Though worship and study are great we are called to do much more. The playground is meaningless while the battleground has purpose. The missionaries in the world answer the call to the battlefield and as a result many face dangers and persecution. I am convinced that if we are not experiencing any push back from the world for our faith then we are not on the battlefield.
Today I want to encourage everyone to come of the playing field and step out onto the battlefield. Jesus never got off the battlefield and through the cross he took the high ground just like the union army during the battle of Gettysburg. From the cross he was able to completely slaughter the enemy and by so doing he has already won the war against sin. Now it is our turn to take the high ground and fight the fight worth fighting. Are we fighting that fight today? Or have we been finding ourselves enjoying the safety feeling and pleasures of the playground? I invite you to the battlefield this morning.