John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
Years ago, ESPN did a bit of a tongue-in-cheek documentary on Los Angeles Lakers’ basketball star A.C. Green. Green holds the NBA record having played 907 games without missing a game or sitting one out, which earned him the nickname Iron Man. But the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary was focussed on another streak, that seemed far more impressive to his teammates and those close to the team – it was entitled A.C Green: Iron Virgin . Yes, A.C. Green was a devout Christian, and he made a decision to remain celibate until he was married, which astonishingly came at the age of 38.
In the documentary, former teammates and coaches were interviewed and they described the atmosphere that surrounded the 1980’s LA Lakers. They described it with words like “sexual carnival” and “hedonistic”. They explained that once you put on that Los Angeles Lakers uniform you could have any woman you desired, and they would literally throw themselves onto the players. Even A.C.’s teammates would send girls his way to try to break the resolve of a wide-eyed 24-year-old NBA rookie, but he would not break. He maintained that same resolve through to his marriage to Veronique Green when he was 38 years old.
How does a young man do that? A.C. Green was thrown in the middle of what his teammates self-professed to be a hedonistic lifestyle. This was a part of the basketball lifestyle; they were bigger than rock stars and if A.C. was going to play the sport he loved he had no choice but to be in this world. God could have given him an injury in his high school or college career that could have kept him from the temptations of this world of fame, but God did not do that. Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 14-15 is very telling. “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus is saying that his desire is for us as Christians to be in the world, but not of it.
But what are the keys to be in a world (i.e. be relevant in the world like A.C. was) and yet not be corrupted by that same world? The answer is that it can only come supernaturally. Green tells stories of when he was on the road that there would literally be women lined up knocking on his hotel room door and when asked what he did in that situation, he responded: “I would start praying the same prayers, like super loud”. A.C. understood that he needed to draw on the supernatural power of God through prayer. If our prayer, like that of Jesus, is for God to “protect us from the evil one”, He will answer that prayer. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) .
A.C. was also a man of the Word, because he knew that he needed to be covered with the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and the Bible was his sword. How are you doing? Are you fleeing from the world God has placed you in, or are you simply bending and conforming to be like all those around you? Or are you choosing to be relevant in the world God has placed you in, but in a way that does not compromise your beliefs, and does not dishonor Jesus who abides inside of you? Have an honest conversation with God about this today, and also those Christian brothers and sisters whom God has placed into your life for accountability. Draw on the power of God to live an effective life in this world, while not being of this world.