From Bystander to Upstander

From Bystander to Upstander

Acts 26:13-18 “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’

Eph 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

A bystander is someone who is present but not involved. An upstander is a person who speaks or acts for a cause, particularly for someone who is being attacked or bullied.

Mainstream society has descended to the idea, ‘if you don’t agree with me, you’re against me.’ Even churches have shifted their focus from saving souls to keeping up their attendance.

The church is supposed to be a refuge from the world, not an extension of it.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and to love people. They go together. If you don’t love people, you don’t love God.

You can do something to reach people with the love of God. Teach a Bible study. It’s not hard to tell someone else what you’ve learned.

Become an upstander.

The reality is so many people have so many excuses, they don’t believe they’re qualified or able or called.

There is too much apathy.

James 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

One thing that causes apathy is getting offended and holding onto it. How can you go from being a bystander to an upstander if you’re holding onto what happened in the past?

Another thing that causes apathy is complacency. A swamp has no change. Complacency is the belief that everything is just fine just as it is. There is no forward movement. You’ve got to have the change, ever-changing from glory to glory.

Do you want to see change? Growth?

One other thing that keeps people from becoming an up-standing is the spirit of ‘Not it!’ This is different from apathy in that it’s not your problem. If you see a tissue on the floor, pick it up. Little things make a difference.

We do this with God. Some people hear God’s call and think, ‘Not it!’ You’ve been called to teach a Bible study, but you’ve got your excuses. Jonah said, ‘They’re not worth it.’ Jesus thought differently. Jesus died for them.

‘Other people can do it better than me.’ —Moses God will speak through you. What is your excuse now?

Gideon said he was the least in his house. David was also the least in his house. God didn’t see either one that way. What’s your excuse?

Look at Paul’s past. God forgave him and he went on to preach.

Micah 7:19 “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

Romans 5:20 “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:”

God hasn’t called you to feel worthy. He’s called you to minister to a lost and dying world.


God wants your ‘availability’ before He uses your ability. He wants to take you from being a bystander to an upstander.

‘The middle of the road is where the white line is and that’s the worst place to drive.’ —Robert Frost

James 1:8 “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

You’ve got to know where the lines are.

We are saved through faith. Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected from the dead. His blood was poured out for sin.

Jesus came to save that which was lost.

Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

You might ask yourself, ‘Why is my life not going anywhere?’ What have you attached yourself to? We are to be modest in appearance and attitude. What are your priorities?

1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;”

Gal 5:1 “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

Parents work hard to make sure that their kids are provided for, food, clothes, healthy, emotionally and physically. But, you’ve got to make sure you guard your children against bad influences through music, entertainment, attitudes, friends, etc.

This isn’t about legalism, it’s about loving people. The law was written in stone, now it’s on your heart.

James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

There is safety in holiness, separation from the world’s ideas. It’s not separating from people, but from bad influences.

There are many stories of heroes who gave their lives for the sake of others. These were upstanders. These were men and women who were willing to stand up and speak up for the sake of others.

It’s about being present AND involved.

‘Here am I, send me!’ ‘I will be an upstander for the cause of Calvary!’

The church is under attack. Common sense is under attack. Who is willing to push back? Who is willing to draw some lines in the sand?

‘Protect this house, I will.’ It is up to us as children of God to protect this house, this body, this temple of Jesus. It is our responsibility to protect.

‘I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes me all summer.’ —Ulysses S. Grant

2 Tim 3:12 “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

Are you willing to help and get involved and minister to whoever God puts in front of you? Are you willing to be an upstander?

If you’re a child of God, you should be an upstander.

Minister. Don’t just watch. Love God by loving people. Step up. Step out. There’s a lot of work to do. This is not a rebuke, this is a challenge.

Be a missionary here. Pray. Love. Minister. Be a missionary wherever you are at right now. It takes the whole body of Christ, all in.

Are you willing?

More Questions for Personal or Group Study:

  1. How have people gotten involved in your life and how were you ministered to because of it?
  2. Read Jeremiah 1:1-10. What excuse does Jeremiah give to God? What is God’s response? How can you apply this Scripture to your life?
  3. What opportunities are available right now for you to become an ‘upstander’?

Excerpted from a sermon preached by Pastor Michael Lagle.

For the full YouTube audio/video, click here.