Lessons From a Paintball War
Paintball! A number of years back this sport was very popular. Paintball was, for the most part, a bunch of adults playing war. You had a gun that fired plastic pellets filled with paint. When they hit your opponent they burst and left a telltale splash of bright color, so none of that “I got you!” “No, you missed!” You could kill your best friend multiple times and then go out for pizza together afterwards.
Back then, a good friend of mine invited me to his 50th birthday celebration—a paintball war party! I had never played the game before, but it sounded like a lot of fun to me and I enthusiastically said yes. My male ego immediately kicked in and I decided that I didn’t want to be embarrassed, so I wisely asked my teenage son—an experienced paintball veteran—for some pointers. He gave me three pieces of advice, and, unbeknownst to him, each one turned out to have spiritual connotations that applied to everyday Christian life.
Get in the Battle
My son, Jeremy, told me that many first-timers, afraid of getting “killed” too quickly, tend to find a hiding place and ride out the storm. They either miss all the fun or are cornered by the other team and end up getting “killed” anyway. Jeremy told me to dive into the battle—charge the enemy, fire your paintball gun, get involved; but don’t hide or sit on the sidelines. He said I’d get bored and regret it later.
Afterwards the spiritual truth behind his advice hit me. Many Christians DO just sit on the sidelines: they only come to church occasionally, they don’t get involved in Bible studies or small groups or adult Sunday school; they don’t look for ways to serve or reach out. The full-time Christian life, for whatever reason, doesn’t appeal to them. And they end up missing out on a lot of the life God intends for them. Many, I know for a fact, end up regretting it later.
Jeremy’s second piece of advice was, “Paintballs don’t always break when they hit your opponent, so don’t rely on just one shot. Pepper your opponents with lots of paintballs. The more you fire, the better your chances of taking them out.”
The Christian life is seldom a “one and done” deal: tell someone the Gospel and they immediately drop to their knees and surrender to Jesus; pray for something and you get it the next day; make a suggestion at church and it’s implemented by next Sunday. That normally doesn’t happen! You need to keep on sharing the Gospel; you need to keep on praying—peppering our enemy the devil with the power of the Holy Spirit, non-stop. Never give up on something after only one try. Keep on keeping on!
My son’s third piece of advice was to get up close to the opposing team. “Paintball guns aren’t that accurate from a long distance,” he told me. “There’s no such thing as a sniper in a paintball war. You have to take the risk of getting close or you’ll never win.”
If you’re serious about it, there will come a time in your Christian life when God tells you to get your hands dirty. Pitch right in and get involved. It’s good to send money to missionaries or a Christian organization, or to put an offering in the plate on Sunday morning, but at some point God will say to you, “Don’t just give money for someone else to do it, I want YOU to do it this time.”
There’s nothing like helping someone in need face to face, or rolling up your sleeves to work and get sweaty, or being an eyewitness to the disastrous effects of sin in this world. And there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment afterwards when you can say to yourself, “With God’s help, I did this.”
Don’t just sit back and leave it to others. Get up close and help. In being a blessing to others, you will receive a blessing back. Guaranteed.
That paintball party was now 12 years ago, but I still remember the lessons:
Get up off the couch and get in the battle of life.
Don’t give up after one effort, keep praying and keep trying.
Attack the pain and suffering in this world yourself—point blank. Don’t sit back and hope others will take care of it.
With my son’s good advice, I did well in that battle. And with that same advice applied to real life, we can all do better in the battles that really count. If you want to get involved in life, please get in touch with us here at First Free. We’ve got plenty of ammo!
About the author
Mike Anderson majored in Bible at the University of Northwestern and has been a student of the Bible his whole adult life. He is newly retired and still learning the ropes. At First Evangelical Free Church he teaches 5th grade Sunday school and co-leads a small group. He enjoys biking, reading, writing, and hiking. Mike and his wife Debbie make their home in Lake Elmo and enjoy having all of their kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.