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BASEBALL Time! Some places around the world may not have persevered beyond all symptoms of winter, but nonetheless we have arrived at the beginning of a new baseball season in amerika. The similarities between the long baseball season and a faith-led life are unmistakable; both involve –
- a seemingly endless battle, with unanticipated bumps, setbacks, and some victories along the way;
- physical preparation;
- ongoing mental vigilance;
- abiding in one’s own abilities (gifts)…knowing one’s own limitations;
- learning from both one’s own experience and from the insight of coaches;
- choosing a team carefully.
The seemingly never-ending professional baseball season begins in the chilly, damp days at the end of each February in ‘spring training’, and doesn’t end until the blustery cold at beginning of November – more than 200 games of ups and downs, highs and lows, counting regular season, preseason, and post season playoff games.
Therefore…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… Hebrews 12:1
Much of the physical preparation is accomplished in the almost ritualistic annual ‘spring training’. Training includes building up the strength of the players so they can persevere through the marathon length season, honing skills, and learning to stay healthy by establishing healthful nutrition and rest habits, as well as daily routines including stretching and warming up, not to mention a constant vigilance to any seemingly small aches and pains
…those who run in a race all run, but…run in such a way that you may obtain the prize. 1Corinthans 9:24
Ongoing mental vigilance
includes – over coming ‘self-doubt’ (in 200 games each year, even the best teams will LOSE probably 80
games….even the best players will
probably strike out over 100 times!); focussing on matters at hand / avoiding
distractions; learning to make almost constant adjustments based on one’s
performance; recognizing and adapting to the
ever-changing strategies and tactics of opponents (or in your
faith-walk, your life or death enemy!);
while the entire season seems to go on forever, each day is a new day…the past is to be learned
from, but left behind; …and one day it WILL all end!
GUARD your heart [center of thinking] with all your diligence, for out of it flows the essences of life! Proverbs 4:23
Each team is led by a group of mentors, ‘coaches‘…former players who became too old to survive the grueling 9- month season as active players, but had managed to acquire the intangible qualities of wisdom over the years. The coaches were rarely the most ‘successful’ former players. Coaches are keen observers, quickly noticing minute flaws in active players, and are able and willing to suggest adjustments to improve performance in the form of encouragement (and not scolding!).This intangible gift for ‘coaching’, cannot be attained by time in a classroom at some institution of higher learning.
Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding. Job 12:12
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. Proverbs 19:20
The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their silver head. Proverbs 20:9
Learning, and then staying ‘within’ one’s own ‘skills set’ (giftings). No matter how hard one tries and how long he practices, he will never be Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson or Willie Mays! Similarly, no matter how long one sings in the shower, he will never be Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James, Twila Paris or Charles Billingsly! The coaching philosophy that one can accomplish any goal given enough effort is a lie [deception] of our age. The wishful lie does not prove true, it is not in accordance with God’s word, and it is based on a fictitious study! It would seem some of our greatest frustrations are attributable to our trying to be something we were never designed or created to be! [‘A man’s GOT to know his limitations! according to Clint Eastwood].
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb… Isaiah 44:24
He fashions their hearts individually… Psalms 33:15
Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity… Job 10:8
For we are His workmanship… Ephesians 2:10
Where there is no vision [of who it is He created us to be], people cast off restraint… Proverbs 29:18
Last, but not least, is selection of the team. In the baseball world, the makeup of a team is less fluid than in our faith journey. But individuals able to contribute with their great skills in various areas are needed of course, but equally important are durable folks, and folks who will get along with each other, celebrating the highs, and remaining faithful and encouraging during the lows, the down time, the inevitable setbacks - ‘reliability’,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself… Matthew 19:19
What is desired in a man is kindness… Proverbs 19:22
Cast out the scoffer (ridiculer), and contention will leave…strife and reproach will cease… Prov. 22:10
A man's gift makes room for him… Proverbs 18:16
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers… Psalms 1:1
The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray… Prov. 12:26
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. Proverbs 13:20
Consider what Scripture teaches us about the types of folks to disqualify from for our close ‘circle of friends’ –
Ungodly/actively bad (Proverbs 4:14), immoral (Proverbs 5:5), foolish (Proverbs 14:7), angry (Proverbs 22:24), gluttons (Proverbs 23:30), drunks (Proverbs 23:30), evil (Proverbs 24:1)…
The best kind of friend is a PRAYING kind of friend!
prayerful men carrying the bed of a paralyzed friend could not make entry into
a home where Jesus was teaching because the home was already jammed full of people.
So, the four men broke open a hole in the roof and lowered the bed with their paralyzed
You ain't got REAL friends until they do whatEVER it takes to get you to Jesus!
A mostly obscure player from days gone by comes to mind, Smokey Burgess. Also known as old ‘shake, rattle and roll…he was never highly skilled in the usual ways – strong, powerful, fleet of food, skilled defensively, and he no doubt had nicotine issues…and was relegated to being a backup catcher for much of his professional playing days. But he held the career record for total number of pinch hits (successful ‘hits’ as a substitute batter, usually in a ‘pinch’ – little or no notice to go up the plate to face 95 mph fastballs in a critical situation at the end of a game). In fact, Smokey’s reliability became legendary – that you could wake him up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night in the middle of December and send him up to the plate…in the middle of a snowstorm…and he would hit a line drive on the first pitch! And that’s how I would hope to be remembered – reliable!
But you say you don’t have an opponent…an enemy?
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8
You don’t have battles? An opponent, an enemy? Haven’t you heard this seductively whispered in your ear –
‘just this once…you deserve to be happy…no one will ever know!
Guess again! You have an enemy! And you have a battle! Hence you better have a plan. A strategy!
Christy Matthewson – a supreme pitcher (only one player had more ‘wins’ in his career than Matty) out of Bucknell University in the early 1900s, was known for his faith and ‘clean living, and for his focus and strategy as much as for his power and durability. Matty suffered a rare loss one particular game when a young, unknown player had a game winning hit in the last inning. After post game celebrations quieted down, one of the kid’s older team mates asked the young player what pitch he hit (fastball? Curveball? Change up? Inside? Outside?) …the young player said I don’t know…why should I remember? The older team mate replied – ‘because Matty will!’