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Not seeing God work? Move to a better seat!

I have a passion for live sporting events. There is nothing better than tickets to the game. During the pandemic, I got the opportunity to go see one of the greatest football plays of all time. My friend Jacques Cesaire was a coach for the Buffalo Bills and they were playing the Arizona Cardinals in the fall of 2020. So what did I do? I asked for tickets. If there is one thing I like more than tickets to the game it’s free tickets to the game. Turns out that weekend was my son-in-law Tyler's birthday so I took him to the game. He’s a die-hard Arizona Cardinals fan and I was homing for my boy Jacques and the Bills.

Because of Covid, I couldn’t get near Jacques on the sidelines, so to show my support I bought a 20×30 cutout of Jacques's head to let him know we were in the stands.

The Bills were down in the fourth quarter, but with just over 30 seconds remaining they scored to take the lead. It would take a miracle to beat the Bills. Unfortunately, that miracle is now part of NFL lore. Kyler Murray threw a 43-yard pass as time expired to win the game. That play is now called the “Hail Murray” and the replay ran over and over on ESPN. If you tuned into SportsCenter that day you could see Tyler and me as the pass is completed. Tyler is rising to his feet with arms outstretched, triumphant, and I am sitting down with my head buried in my hands.

As I have grown in my relationship with my Heavenly Dad I have learned that he has a love for good seats as well. I know this because he is pretty direct about it in one of the scariest sentences in the Bible. When I heard this phrase in church or youth group or Bible college or seminary if it didn’t cause chills it at least brought guilt. It’s found in the last words Jesus said on earth. It contains one of the scariest words in the Bible.

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:8

Did you pick out the scary word?

You shall be my witnesses.

This is what we think of when we hear the word witness

Who’s up for being a witness? Let’s get on our suits and pump up those bicycle tires! Just about every sporting event I had tickets to had preachers out front with signs and megaphones and crazy zealots “witnessing.”

When Jesus used the word witness in this context it didn’t carry any of these connotations. It simply meant to be an eyewitness.

To be a witness means to see an event and then tell people what you saw.

Turns out, if you are like most people, you are already great at that. What is your response when you see an amazing movie? You tell people about it. Same is true if you see a terrible movie. You can’t help voicing your opinion, “I can’t believe Nicolas Cage would even do that movie.” When most people see a great comedian, Cirque du Soleil, a car accident, a fireworks display, or a great sporting event we tell people about it.

When Tyler and I saw that game we couldn’t stop talking about it. We told everyone. Because that’s what you do when you are a witness.

When Jesus told his friends that they would be his witnesses, it wasn’t a job or a duty. Jesus wasn’t trying to guilt them into talking about Him. I think Jesus’ words could be interpreted like this,

“Stay right here. In a couple of months I’m going to do something so amazing that you won’t be able to shut up about it. Just watch and wait and I’m going to blow your minds.”

Acts 2 details the events of that day Jesus told them to stay in town for.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? …—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:1-8, 11,12

Can you imagine that moment? A violent wind blows through the house. Fire hovers above your friend’s heads. Then everyone starts speaking different languages. No Google Translate. No Babble. Unbelievable! If that happened to you there is no way you could not tell other people. You’d have to. You couldn’t keep your mouth shut. Witnessing wasn’t a chore to these people. They weren’t responding to guilt. They were doing what people do. They witnessed an incredible event and they couldn’t keep their mouths shut.

Rather than avoiding this word and hoping someone else will take up the slack in witnessing, I believe each of us should be on our knees praying for a moment like this.

“God please let me be on the front row when you do the amazing. God make me a witness.”

So here’s my dilemma.

  • God wants us to be a witness.
  • We want to be there when God does the amazing.
  • So why is it that we aren’t better at this?

Let me give you a visual of what I believe to be the reason why so many people are averse to the idea of being a witness.

You can find seats like these at most baseball parks. These seats are at any football stadium. You find them in any college or professional basketball gym. They pretty much all look the same. A hard plastic, fairly uncomfortable seat. A seat like this can cost you as little as a dollar and can cost in the thousands. I checked Ticketmaster last week and two seats like this at the Super Bowl were going for as high as $96,000.

On the other hand, if you go to Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, you can get into a seat like this for one dollar. That ticket buys you one seat in the nosebleed section above home plate with your view obstructed by two I beams that hold the retractable roof. They are called the Uecker seats. They are named after the Brewers announcer Bob Uecker. Uecker has been dubbed Mr. Baseball even though he played only 6 years and batted under .200. He was made famous by a beer commercial he did in which he was sitting in decent seats when an usher moved him. Turns out his actual ticket was in the upper deck typically known as the nosebleed section. His now famous comment, “I must be in the front row” led to an entire section being named after him and a statue in his honor.

In 2016 my son and I made a trip to watch the soccer World Cup in Brazil. I won a lottery to get a pair of seats to a game but I didn’t want to travel all that way for just one game so I scoured Craigslist and found a pair of tickets to see Chile vs. Netherlands in São Paulo. When we got to our seats we realized that they were the second row from the top behind the goal. In other words, the worst seats in the house. Despite the poor seats, the atmosphere was amazing. The Netherlands fans were all clad in orange and the Chile fans spent the game chanting, “Chi, Chi, Chi, Le, Le, Le, Viva Chile!”

Near the end of the first half, I decided to see if we could find some closer seats so we started walking down. My son and I walked down 40 rows and saw two seats available among the Chile fans. As we started making our way toward them we were stopped by an overly enthusiastic Chile fan. I stated our intentions, “Can we sit in those seats?” He questioned, “Are you going to cheer for Chile?” I kept my response simple and to the point, “Chi, Chi, Chi, Le, Le, Le, Viva Chile!”

Where you sit has everything to do with how much you enjoy the event. If you want to see God work in your life I will make it simple.

Move to a better seat

The funny thing about the Uecker seats at Miller Park is that people line up hours before the game to buy these seats for a dollar each, but no one sits in them. The Brewers rarely sell out and the ushers at Miller Park allow people to move to better seats so those people who buy Uecker seats never actually sit in them. They do the obvious. They move to better seats. That’s exactly what we need to do. If you aren’t seeing God work, move closer to the action. Get yourself to a place where you are seeing God work.

Have you ever talked with one of these fanatics who have gone on a missions trip? Years ago my wife felt like God was putting it on her heart to go to Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake devastated the country. She thought she’d get a handful of people from our church to join her. Thirty people signed up! She’s since led over 1000 people on almost 40 different trips.

The crazy thing about all these people who pay thousands of dollars to go to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. You can’t shut them up. They’ve seen God work in so many ways they can’t stop talking about it. They got front row seats.

You know I can’t stand not sitting in the good seats, so I finally got my chance to go to Haiti a few months later. It was a small group of people including an architect, a contractor, and several nurses. I could see how those people could be useful, but I was questioning my role. I asked the leader of the trip, “What am I going to do there?” He said, “You’ll be the spiritual leader.”

When I arrived I took an offering.

Actually, one of the missionaries was getting married so I committed to painting her bedroom. I invited a young Haitian man, Gilbert who had befriended my son to join me in my task. We spent two days together in that little room and I used that time to ask Gilbert about his life. He painted a picture of life in Haiti. Gilbert told me about the one, maybe two meals he got each day.

He showed me the floor he slept on.

At the end of two days, the room was a lovely Haitian green and I had a new brother. I dug in my pocket for some money to give Gilbert for his two days’ work. I think I had five bucks. As I finished cleaning up, Gilbert disappeared. He came back minutes later with a hand-carved wooden vase and handed it to me and said, “This is for your son Riley. He is my friend.” Leaving my seat in San Diego had put me on the front row for a spectacular display of radical generosity.

When we follow God and get ourselves in a position where we can’t do it on our own this is what generally happens. God shows up. God does the amazing, and we get to be witnesses. That’s what happened in the early church. They were on the front lines and God did the miraculous. What is true of God then is true of Him now.

God is capable of doing great works but too often we are too far away to see it.

If you aren’t seeing God work, the challenge is simple. Move to a better seat. Let me give you a couple of ways to get on the front row.

  • Go on a missions trip.
  • Get involved in a ministry.
  • Feed some homeless people.
  • Volunteer in the lives of kids in Sunday School or youth group.

Follow the passion that God has put on your heart and do something. Anything! Perhaps your heart breaks for people who are victims of trafficking or the great racial divide in our country. Find an organization that is making a difference and join them in what they are doing.

Not seeing God work? Maybe it’s time to move to a better seat.

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