Matt Coker | @MatthewSCoker
When I was in fifth grade, I overheard a conversation a few of my buddies were having about a big bike ride one of the guys’ dads was going to take them on. It was going to be a big 10-mile ride on the outskirts of town.
I immediately asked if I could tag along, because I loved to bike. My bike was my favorite thing in the world. And riding it for ten miles, in a part of town I’ve never ridden before, surrounded by my friends… that sounded amazing!
When the weekend came, I loaded up my mountain bike into the back of my mom’s Suburban and she drove me to my buddy’s house. As I pulled my bike out of the back end, his dad noticed that I had a mountain bike, not a street bike.
All the other kids had street bikes.
He told me that it was going to be harder for me, because the street bikes are designed to go faster on flat roads, while mountain bikes are better in rough terrain. But he thought that I would be okay, and I was positive that I could keep up, so we went on our way.
For the first mile or so, I was doing great. And it was just like I imagined it would be! Friends all around me, everyone having a fun time. But then, slowly, they started leaving me behind as I began to get really tired, really fast.
Slowly I watched as my friends got so far ahead of me, that I could no longer see them. My friend’s dad swung back to me to let me know everyone else was at least a mile ahead of me, and that they’d wait for me at the halfway point.
Once I reached the end of mile three, they were already stopped at the 5 mile mark. I was having such a hard time peddling. My legs were giving out. I couldn’t catch my breath. I quickly ran out of water. The sun kept getting hotter. At one point, I had to get off my bike and just walk it.
Those last two miles took me well over an hour to traverse. I rode up to my buddies and just saw the looks on their faces, like I had ruined everything. I felt so ashamed. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I thought I was ready for something like this.
I took my bike to a hotel next door and used their phone to call my mom. She came and picked me up, while the rest of the crew had already taken off back home.
When I first became a Christian, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was ready to storm the gates of Hell with a water gun! I was so gung-ho and determined that I was ready for a debate at the drop of a hat.
In 2004, I started up my first blog, and while I wrote some good stuff, I also wrote a lot of stuff that me today would never write, and certainly never put online.
I got into so many arguments and fights with non-believers, mostly online, and I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I had this Christian thing down. This was, after all, the correct way to witness to the lost, right?
A few years ago, I had the realization that I had wasted several years of my faith trying to debate people into Heaven, and I realized I probably never actually genuinely witnessed to one single person. I was too busy fighting God’s battles for Him, standing up for my own rights, defending the faith, doing what I thought was noble and right at the time.
That was a shameful moment of realization for me. One in a long string of them that year, that terrible year, when I realized my faith was nowhere near as strong as I convinced myself it was. I had been riding a mountain bike down the road of faith, while those around me had street bikes. I didn’t realize I was so far behind. I was still such a baby. I had never grown. I learned a whole bunch of facts and arguments, but I had never grown spiritually.
Christians often come to arguments or debates with non-believers equipped with the wrong tools. We bring our bag of stuff to throw in their faces, fingers to wag, proof they are terrible people, so on and so forth. But that’s a bag we packed ourselves.
God equips us with love for the lost, hope for the worried, healing for the hurt, strength for the weak, a Gospel to be shared and a story of redemption to be testified. Those things get the job done. Those things bring people to Christ.
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NLT)
Know what you’re up against and bring the right equipment or one day you might look up and realize that you are so far behind where you thought you’d be.
Matt Coker is the Ministry Director of The Back Row. He is married to a beautiful woman he met when they were both in youth group and they have one mischievous son together. Matt collects Funko Pop figures, loves time travel movies, and enjoys exotic jerky meats. You can contact Matt via the contact page or on Twitter at @MatthewSCoker.