“In the beginning….”
Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
Where is baseball first mentioned in the bible? In Genesis 1, “In the big inning…”
(rim shot please)
It’s baseball season here in the land of “Field of Dreams.” The last couple of summers I’ve had to miss most of my oldest son’s ball games because of community theater commitments, so this year I thought I’d pitch in and help out with the team. It’s a lot of fun hanging out with a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders on these beautiful spring days. They learned very quickly that’s I haven’t played ball in close to 30 years, but they’ve been very accepting of my help.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from watching little league baseball:
- You have to keep your eye on the ball. We know this applies to hitting, but it also applies to fielding the ball as well as just playing the game in general. If you want to hit the ball, you’ve got to watch it cross the plate. If you want to catch the ball, you’ve got to watch it into the glove. If you’re on the field, you’ve got to know where the ball is at all times. The ball is the game. If you want to win, keep your eye on the ball.
In our Christian lives, we have to keep our eyes on the ball as well. We have to remember that our lives are not our own, that we have been purchased with a price, and that we are to live for the glory of God in everything we do. A resolute passion for the glory of God should influence every decision, govern every purchase, guide every word. If you want to be victorious in life, to overcome all things, keep your heart fixed on the glory of God.
- You’re probably not as good as you think you are. It never ceases to amaze me how a 10 or 11 year old can think He’s God’s gift to baseball. He already knows more than the coach, has his swing perfected, considers practice an inconvenience, and the golden glove and Nike endorsements are only just moments away. Usually these are the players who blame the umpire when he strikes out, the field when he misses an easy out, and the rest of the team when they lose a game. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude usually learned in the home, and is so common in sporting that there is nothing to discourage its continuing to flourish.
One of the sobering realities of the Gospel message is that we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. Our righteousness, our good works, are like filthy rags, stained and polluted in the eyes of God. We polish the thin veneer of our self-righteousness to a high glossy shine, but deep within were nothing more than a selfish, self-centered 10 year old who thinks he’s God’s gift to Christendom (second only to Jesus, of course). We blame the world, the politicians, the church, for the problems of the world today, and just wish we could get back to the “heart of Christianity” without ever really knowing what that means. It’s the sins of those around me, right? Or could my sins have something to do with the world’s problems.
The more I realize my own brokenness, the more I learn to lean on the everlasting arms of Christ. The more aware I am of my sinfulness, which leads me to the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ, the closer I come to true holiness.
- You get better the more you practice. While it is important to remind the kids who are playing that they have a long way to go, it is also important to encourage them as they make improvements along the way. These little 3rd graders have a hard time throwing the ball across the field. But every time they try, they get a little closer. The coaches are there to run them through the disciplines, base running, fielding, hitting, and throwing. As the players follow the coach’s lead, they grow and improve. It may seem like going through the motions, but they are being prepared for the real game.
The Scriptures teach that we are all sinners, but they also teach that we are being made holy by the transforming work of God’s Spirit. As we study God’s Word, as we come before the Lord in prayer, as we serve one another in love, the Holy Spirit encourages us, empowers us, to keep on growing. We take up the Spiritual disciplines, like reading, praying, studying, worshipping, and working – and sometimes they do indeed feel like discipline. All the while, God is working His good work within us, rooting out sin, and growing us in righteousness.
- You play better as a team. There are nine players on the field for a reason. One person cannot possibly play all positions. Players need one another on the field. They’ve got to talk to each other, work with one another, encourage each other in order to win. A player is part of a team, but without the team, there are no players.
The Christian is never a Christian apart from the Church. The Community of other believers is an absolute necessity in the life of a follower of Christ. As Christians, we are a part of the body of Christ, as a body, we are many units that make up a whole. A Christian cannot exist in isolation. Christians need one another – we’ve got to talk to one another about our faith, work side by side with each other in service and ministry, encourage one another. A Christian is a part of the Church, but without the Church you cannot be a Christian.
- You have to listen to the coach. As a player, you are not the coach. The coach has the advantage of age, experience, and perspective that you do not have. The coach has a strategy for the game, a particular order for batting, a roster for pitching, and considering the opponent, will play the team accordingly. As a player, your job is to listen to the coach. When he tells you to run, you run. If he tells you to slide, you better slide. If he knows a strong hitter is coming to the plate, he’ll tell the outfield to take a few steps back; not because he wants you to suffer by having farther to go at the end of the inning, but because he wants you to win. If you want to play ball, you better listen to the coach.
I can’t say this any clearer – You are not God. You are not the creator and giver of life, you did not create the stars and spin them in their orbit. You do not possess the power, the experience, the wisdom, the perspective to be in control of your own life. And that’s okay. God is in control, and the sooner you learn to listen to Him, to follow His commands, to trust in His word, the more joy and contentment you will find in life. When God says “No,” it’s because God knows what is best. When God says “Yes,” it’s because He wants to shower you with blessings.
See you at Home Plate!