Picture two different players on a team.

One is always where he is supposed to be. He gets to practice on time, does the required drills with precision, vocally encourages others to do the same, and shows up again tomorrow for the same thing. The other player does all the things the first does and there is no perceptible difference between the two…until the games start. Though the first player put his time in, when practice was over, he never thought about baseball again until it was time to report the next day. He hated watching games, hated talking about it, was annoyed by anyone who thought he was an “athlete.” Baseball for him was simply something that he did because he was supposed to, expected to, or because it paid for his education or living.

The second player, however, never turned off his baseball motor. Even after the lights of practice were turned out, he watched games, studied film of great players, poured over the nuances of the game, and so on. Amazingly, he was better prepared for pressure situations in games. What’s the difference? One guy played baseball while the other lived it.

Consider this from Proverbs 21:3–“Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (HCSB). The sacrifice referred to here was that which was required by God in ancient times for the ritual cleansing from sin and error. Just like the first player mentioned above, there were some in ancient Israel who did the required sacrifices but never thought about the Lord at other times. Today, many who claim faith in Jesus do “what they’re supposed to do,” like going to church or saying a prayer from time to time. Yet, like that first player, many are playing faith and not living it.

What a blessed life we miss out on when we simply “sacrifice,” or play at our faith, instead of living it daily. When life gets rough, those who live it have a deeper well to draw from, a more solid foundation on which to stand. There was no outward difference between those two players at practice, but which one do you believe is the true player? God sees our hearts and He knows when we are just playing and when we are truly living for Him. Let’s be people of righteousness and justice and not just sacrifice.

Here’s a prayer if your heart relates to Proverbs 21:3:

Dear Lord Jesus, make me someone who truly lives for you, rather than a person who does “what I’m supposed to do,” and then puts you on the shelf the rest of the time. Make me a person of righteousness and justice and not meaningless “sacrifice.”