Garth Brooks’ 1993 hit song, “Standing outside the fire,” begins with the following lyrics: “We call them fools, who have to dance within the flame, who chance the sorrow and the shame, that always comes with getting burned.” A line in the chorus follows, “Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.”
The song is saying a person is not truly living if they are “standing outside the fire,” i.e. rolling up one’s sleeves, investing oneself in others, putting oneself in a vulnerable position for the sake of love, etc.
In a sense, the Christian life is one that calls us into “the fire.” The Christian life is a wonderful, triumphant, fulfilling, transformative and joyous endeavor. It is the life that prepares us for the life to come.
But, the Christian walk is not spectator sport. It calls us into “the game” as active participants. In this game, things can get messy. Personalities will clash (Philippians 4:2-4). Sometimes, feelings will be hurt (Philippians 3:17-18). It guarantees adversity and hardship along the way (2 Timothy 3:12).
This game requires significant investment of our energy, resources, emotions and our being (Matthew 22:37-40). We will be disappointed and discouraged at times (Galatians 1:6). This is just the nature of Christian living.
Welcome to biblical Christianity. This is not the feel-good, “no resistance and all reward” message that passes for Christianity in many circles. The Christian life is a fight. It is a war. It is a struggle. It is a rewarding, fulfilling, beautiful, joyful struggle, but it is a struggle (1 Timothy 6:12).
The rewards are great. Christians have the promise that Jesus is with them (Matthew 28:18-20). Christians have the promise of eternal life. Christians have the confidence that no matter what happens, they can keep on living faithfully because it is Christ that strengthens them (Philippians 4:13).
If other Christians around them are “fighting the good fight” as well, they have their encouragement, which fuels them forward (Hebrews 10:24-25). They have the promise that the tests and trials of life refine their faith and build them stronger (1 Peter 1:6-9; Romans 5:1-5).
In the end, when we dig in and really live the Christian life, we experience what our Lord experienced in many ways (John 15:20), which is the highest honor to be had (Acts 5:41). Jesus said Christians are “blessed” when people revile, persecute and slander them for His sake (Matthew 5:11).
In all of the hardships they face, they experience ultimate triumph. By living in faith, they are being molded into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 12:2). They are learning to trust and rely upon God for their strength (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13).
I fear too many times, Christians are content to “stand outside the fire” of the Christian life. The Christian “fight” turns into the Christian “flight.” It is the path of least resistance. We want to reap the maximum reward for the least amount of effort.
We sadly grow content with “doing just enough” to maintain the status quo. We slack in areas that we know we shouldn’t. We are no longer growing and being challenged. We no longer make an effort to speak out against sin. We stop caring enough about our brothers and sisters to get out of our comfort zones and lovingly correct them if the situation so requires.
We start to blend in with the world around us and simply get drug out to sea in the undertow of the daily grind. We grow apathetic towards doing the Lord’s work and the fact that souls perish daily without Jesus. All the while we are deceiving ourselves in thinking we are living the Christian life. The Christian life is not worth living from the sidelines. In fact, if it’s from the sidelines, “outside the fire,” it’s not the Christian life at all.
May God help those who are in Christ to endeavor to get busy doing His will and relentlessly show their love for God and people, no matter the cost! God is for them and therefore nothing is impossible. For those who are not in Christ, may God prick your heart through His word and call you into the saving fire of the Christian life.
Torrey Clark is the host of the weekly Christian worldview talk show, Culture Shock (www.thelightnetwork.tv/shows). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.