December 17, 2017

Pinball or Chess?

Thomas Overmiller

Which best portrays your life– a pinball game or a chess match?

Daniel describes the pinball lifestyle distinctly when he says, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 9:24). Non-stop action and superfluous information certainly characterize the normal American routine. Like the start of a pinball round when the metal ball springs into play, we jump out of bed and zoom through the day, bouncing from one critical task to another, texting and emailing along the way, while hoping to hit the jackpot. At the end of the day, we collapse into bed with very little meaningful results, only to do it all over again the next day.

The Christian life should resemble a chess match more than a pinball game. First of all, we have been placed into a spiritual battle, not a frivolous game. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). Because of this, we must choose our moves wisely, not bouncing wildly from one obstacle to the next.

Second, Paul teaches us to “walk circumspectly” (Eph. 5:15). We are responsible to conduct our lives accurately and exactly, in a careful and observant manner. This biblical approach is methodical and deliberate, not frenetic and haphazard. A chess match illustrates this very well, while a pinball game does not.

As you pursue a circumspect lifestyle, avoid the tendency to replace the secular hamster wheel with some kind of Christian version. The Christian life is not a hamster wheel at all; running furiously with no destination in view. Set clear goals that are biblical, spiritual, and eternal. Determine what steps are necessary to accomplish those goals, and pursue them wholeheartedly.

Back away from impulsive decisions and spontaneous reactions. Avoid feverish schedules and suffocating task-lists. Instead, approach life with the sensible guidance of God’s Word and the calm confidence of quiet prayer. Wait on the Lord and depend on the Spirit. Plan to work hard, serve conscientiously, and rest intentionally at regular, appropriate times. I am thankful for a professor in college who frequently said, “When you study, really study. And when you take a break, really take a break.” This was terrific advice!

So if the Christian life is like a chess match, what’s your next move?

Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

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