When I was sidelined in Jr. Hi School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, it was a most humiliating experience. In 7th grade, I was a wiry 13-year-old. I decided to play (American) football for our school. The coach had a “no cuts” policy, so everyone stayed on the team. But I had never played organized football before. Everybody else seemed to know what to do. I had no clue.
When our first game rolled around, I was scared that the coach would put me in the game. The problem was, I didn’t have know what I would do if I was in the game. It would have been a disaster. He never did put me in the game—I was sidelined from the start.
To make matters worse, my father came and watched the entire game. Afterwards he lamented that I never got in the game. I never admitted how relieved I was that I didn’t!
Other times I’ve been sidelined in other ways and for other reasons. Sometimes it has been awful. I wanted desperately to be in the game, but wasn’t allowed. Perhaps you have had similar experiences. It might be an illness, a family challenge, a decision at work, or something else that keeps us sidelined.
Recently while studying the life of the Apostle Paul, I thought about how he was sidelined by unjust imprisonment for years and what he did to make the best of it.
Here are 3 ways to win when you’re sidelined:
1. Refuse resentment.
Because of his witness for Jesus, the Apostle Paul was in prison in Caesarea Maritima for two years (Acts 24:27). After that he was transported by ship as a prisoner to Rome—a journey of many months. And then he was a prisoner in Rome for another two years (Acts 28:30-31).
During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote about how he witnessed to everyone he could, including the prison guards (Acts 28:30-31; Philippians 1:12-14). He penned the letters of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, and the personal letter of Philemon. In each of these letters, Paul stated that he was actually a prisoner of Christ and for His glory (see Philemon 1:9; Ephesians 3:1; Philippians 1:13; Colossians 4:18).
For example, in Ephesians 3:1b he wrote “I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . .” (NLT)
If you’re sidelined, remember that God is still in control. God even takes mistreatment such as Paul’s, and turns it to good. Therefore, like Paul, we must refuse resentment.
If we resent our situation, we only make the situation worse. Had Paul despised and loathed his imprisonment, he could not have accomplished the works he did in prison, which we’ll consider next.
2. Remain faithful.
No matter how we’re sidelined, we must remain faithful to serve God in our situation. This is what Paul did and as a result, his imprisonment was perhaps the most productive time of his life. Why? Because the books of the Bible Paul wrote while in prison, over the centuries, have touched far more people than Paul ministered to personally while he was alive.
Furthermore, Paul wrote about his imprisonment in Rome:
Now I desire to have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have turned out rather to the progress of the Good News; so that it became evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my bonds are in Christ; and that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:12–14)
So many people were blessed by Paul’s witness while imprisoned. Regarding his stay for two years in Caesarea Maritima, we read that Paul was often visited by the Roman governor Felix and witnessed to him and his wife personally (Acts 24:23-27).
Paul remained faithful despite being sidelined. The same should be true of you and me. Let’s be faithful when sidelined. It is quite possible, that in the end, we too will determine that the period when we were sidelined was one of the most valuable and productive times of our lives.
3. Rejoice always.
Paul continued to rejoice, even when sidelined for years. His most joyful writing was in his letter to the Philippians, which he wrote while imprisoned in Rome. Over and over Paul wrote about the joy he had, despite being sidelined (Philippians 1:4, 18, 25–26; 2:2; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10).
In Philippians 4:4 he gives this command, “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, ‘Rejoice!’”
Paul definitely practiced what he preached. He had genuine joy, even while imprisoned.
But how could he have joy while chained to a Roman guard on trial for his life? In a nutshell, he had joy because through the power of the Holy Spirit he chose joy. He found reasons to rejoice and be thankful in the midst of his sidelining and difficult circumstances.
Some time ago a book was written titled, Happiness is a Choice. I can attest to the truth of its title: joy is a choice I make each day. Sure, sometimes it is exceedingly difficult. But it beats the alternatives: discouragement, dejection and sorrow.
When I am sidelined or face other challenges, I give myself some space to grieve, which is healthy. Then, I choose to rejoice, no matter what, even in the midst of my challenges. And when I rejoice, my rejoicing results in joy.
In summary, when we’re sidelined, respond in these three great ways:
- Refuse resentment.
- Remain faithful.
- Rejoice always.
How have you responded when sidelined?
Your thoughts are welcome! Please leave your comment below.
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- How to Renew Your Mind and Think More Positively
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- How to be Smarter About Failure in Life
- Seven Ways to Pray When Suffering
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- Is it OK to be angry with God? (Podcast
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