A Journal for Bible Teachers

Are You a Spectator or Participator?

Are You a Spectator or Participator?

As the television announcer welcomed the millions of people tuning into a crucial cricket match between England and India, a thought provoking question came to mind. Am I a spectator or a participator? Think about this! An audience of millions of people was preparing to be spectators to a game about to be played out by a mere twenty-two men. The Lord then prompted me to consider as to which of the two groups I am in when it comes to the kingdom of God.

As a boy I enjoyed playing basketball and often dreamed of playing in a professional basketball league. I envisioned having the eyes of the world being on me as I made that last-second shot or being part of a championship team. It did not take long to realise that I was destined to be a spectator to other professional athletes due to not being good enough. In the kingdom of God we actually have a choice and opportunity. God’s grace is able to make us a participator, to be a part of the great move of God to come.

Throughout Scripture we see these two groups displayed. There are those who said yes to the Lord, who participated in what God was doing, while others were only spectators at best. In reviewing a few examples try and put yourself into the narrative and honestly assess which of the two groups would apply to you.

The Multitudes and the Few

John 6 | In the beginning verses of this chapter we see multitudes associating with the Lord. John 6:2, “And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.” His popularity was soaring during this period of His ministry. When Jesus understood that they wanted to forcibly make Him king (John 6:14) he immediately identified Himself as the true bread of life who would one day give of His life. (John 6:33) There would be a cost involved in continuing to go onward with the Lord. This prompted an immediate response from the people. Lord, this is not the message we want to hear. (John 6:60) Amazingly many of His disciples no longer chose to participate in God’s unfolding plan. (John 6:66) Jesus then turned to the few and basically asked if they too would go back. Peter’s response helped position him and the others to now become participators, distinguishing themselves from the multitudes. John 6:68, “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” A few years later these chosen ones were at the forefront of the early church movement. Do we embrace the message of the broken bread? Do we have ears to hear as the Lord speaks to us to follow Him?

The Two Confessions

Numbers 13 | The time had come for the children of Israel to go forth into the Promised Land. The initial spies surveyed the land and came back with their report. Aside from the blessings of the land there were giants who were standing in the way. It was God’s intention and God’s timing for all of Israel to possess their inheritance yet all but a few chose not to participate in what God was speaking. The two groups were distinguished by their respective confessions. Numbers 13:31, “But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” Their confession of the giants indicated a lack of intimacy with God. It needs to be pointed out that Israel had already failed several tests over the course of the two years in the wilderness. God was saying go in and possess, the children of Israel responded by stating that God was not able to do it. Contrast this with the confession of Caleb.

Numbers 13:30, “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

Joshua and Caleb chose to participate with God by aligning their confession with what God was saying. Multitudes in the end failed to enter into the promise God had established for them. How important it is to hear and to confess that which the Lord is saying. (Romans 10:10)

From 32,000 to 300

Judges 7 | Israel was on the verge of a battle with the Midianites. God informed Gideon that the people with him were too many and that they had to be narrowed down, otherwise, they would take credit for the victory. In verse three an opportunity is presented to the people to retreat if they were fearful of battle. After this there were still too many people and the Lord gave unique instructions to Gideon to determine who would participate in this battle from those who would be spectators. Judges 7:6, “And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.” The manner in which the people drank the water determined whom the Lord would use in battle. In studying these verses you discover that there was a quality of vigilance amongst those who were chosen. You find this theme of vigilance prominent throughout the Word of God such in the example of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:16) and the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:13).

We are truly living in exciting and challenging days. God desires that each of us be participants that enter into the arena of His divine purpose and plan. This requires that we learn to hear His voice and respond when He speaks. Spending time in His Word and learning to delight in the Lord on a daily basis are helpful keys in preparing us to be participators. Sadly, the majority in the kingdom tend to be in the category of spectators, not committing themselves in whole hearted consecration. A professional athlete spends years of preparation and discipline before entering into the arena of competition. This maxim is even truer as it relates to the kingdom of God. Which of the above groups do you see yourself in? Are you amongst the few or the multitudes as seen from John 6? Which of the two confessions would you find yourself declaring as seen in Numbers 13? Would you be among the 300 in Gideon’s army, portraying the quality of vigilance in the day we live in? Remember, God’s grace is available to enable each of us to participate if we choose to avail ourselves of it.


Through the years we have marveled in observing the participatory exploits of the men and women of faith as seen in Hebrews 11. The baton is now being placed into our hands. Will we be participators? May the following verses provoke us to help ensure that we participate in the arena of God’s Divine plan for these last days, Hebrews 11:39-40 “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

About the Author

Rev. Timothy O’Connell is an ordained minister of Zion Fellowship International, based in Waverly New York. He has served as a missionary in India for several years and has an extensive understanding and knowledge of the mission field. He is an excellent teacher of the Word. and is currently the Principal of Tung Ling Bible School (Singapore), and is also the Dean of the School of Leadership. He and his wife, Joanne, are currently based in Singapore.