When was the last time you played the game, “Simon Says”? I’m not referring to the musical reality show judge Simon Cowell, or even the legendary vocalist Paul Simon. I mean the kids’ game when the leader tells us “Simon says” and gives instructions on what the participants need to do.
There are two requirements to succeed at “Simon Says.” If Simon says you need to do something, like standing on one foot, doing jumping jacks, or patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, you better do it or you’re out of the competition. And if the leader gives a command, but Simon doesn’t say to do it, you better refrain or…you’re out of the competition.
I never figured out who “Simon” was, or why he wasn’t called Clyde, or Hilda for that matter, but we all knew that whenever Simon said something, we better pay close attention. If only we did so well in heeding what God tells us to do.
Francis Chan, a popular preacher and author on the West Coast, addressed this reality in a video. He noted that while the children’s game teaches us to be vigilant in obeying Simon’s instructions, too often we don’t feel obligated to do what the Lord says.
Many of us regularly read the Bible, all the while nodding our affirmation for what Jesus taught. We might pause to meditate on His message for a while, even memorize some verses that particularly resonate. But put it into practice? Not so fast! As Chan observed, “If Jesus says something, you don’t have to do it. You just have to memorize it.”
He quipped, it’s like telling a child to clean his or her room. Hours later, nothing has been picked up or straightened. When challenged, the child responds with a big smile: “I liked what you said. I memorized it – I can even say it in Greek!”
Alas, that’s not what God expects. As we’re told in James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” It’s easy to declare, “I love the Lord,” but is there evidence of that? We’re instructed in 1 John 5:3, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”
Yes, He has given us laws and commands to obey, but as the verse above points out, they aren’t burdensome – they’re not intended to make our lives miserable. In fact, their purpose is just the opposite. They enable us to experience the peace, joy and fulfillment God promises, and they also enable us to grow closer to Him in the process.
Eric Liddell, the central figure in the film of years ago, “Chariots of Fire,” was a world-class athlete who stood firm on his convictions about keeping the Sabbath holy, even when it cost him the opportunity to compete in an Olympic event he was favored to win.
Liddell’s motives were not self-righteousness or unbending legalism, but a desire to enjoy an intimate relationship with his Lord. As he wrote in The Disciplines of the Christian Life, “You will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice.”
Years ago, I came across a verse that underscores this truth. The apostle Paul wrote, “I pray that you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 6). My personal paraphrase is that when we put into practice what God has given us, He will give us more knowledge and understanding; conversely, if we’re not eager to use what we already have, why should He entrust us with more?
The Amplified Translation expresses this even more powerfully: “(And I pray) that the participation in and sharing of your faith may produce and promote full recognition and appreciation and understanding and precise knowledge of every good (thing) that is ours in (our identification with) Christ Jesus – and unto (His glory).”