It is professional baseball season in America again. Some of us live by the motto: Baseball is not like life; Baseball is life. It is even worse for those of us who are lifelong fans of the Chicago Cubs. Every year we suffer through promising victory to crushing defeat. (One psychologist says that Chicago Cubs fans are masochists at heart.) Some of us who are baseball fanatics know that much of our sporting life is also played out in the Bible. After all, baseball is supposedly the first sport mentioned in the Bible. (Genesis 1:1 says that “in the big inning” God created.)
Chicago Cubs fans have been waiting for a century for their team to win a World Series. They have been waiting over half that time just to see their team play a World Series game. We are intimately aware that God doesn’t always give you everything you want. Sometimes he gives you what you need even though it is the opposite of what you want.
Baseball general managers go into each season with a list of players they would like to get on their team. Sometimes they get most of them; other times they seem We have choices. Do I walk into sin, or run from it? Do I take a walk, or hit into a double play?to get none. After all, other teams are looking at the same players. Sometimes other people’s choices affect what happens. That is why good people die at the hands of a drunk driver. And sometimes, but we never know exactly when, things happen just because that is the way God wants them to happen. In life, as in baseball, we cannot always have what we want. After all, every team wants to win every game every time, but somebody has to lose.
Paul learned this lesson. Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayers the way we want in order to teach us an important lesson (like grace, or like patience).
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:7-9)
Professional baseball teams have a third-base coach. It is this man’s job to control the base-runners and the batters. Each team has a set of signs that this man reveals to his players to tell them what to do. There may be a sign for a bunt, or a hit-and-run. Another sign might be for the batter not to swing at the pitch. Other signs tell a runner to try to steal a base, or to refrain from trying to steal. An important sign is to tell the runner on second who is heading for third base whether to stop or keep going. It is a serious mistake to “run through a stop sign,” even if you score by doing so. It is almost as serious to stop when the coach is waving you toward home plate. Every player on the team at bat must be aware of the third-base coach, and what he is signaling.
Even though this man is the brain of the team when they are batting, sometimes players disregard his signals. They make their own choices. On rare occasions the coach may give them a “green light” to do whatever they think the circumstances warrant. In such cases, they must make their own decision to swing, or steal, or not. Sometimes a player makes his own decision, even though the coach is telling him to do something. More often than not, when he does so he suffers. If the coach signs not to steal, and he chooses to run anyway, he may get caught stealing. If he ignores a bunt signal, he may cause someone else to be thrown out. In the baseball world, that may result in being fired or paying a fine. In God’s world that is called sin, and brings its own punishment.
We all have choices to make. Do I walk into sin, or do I run from it? Do I take a walk, or do I hit into a double play? Sometimes we make the right choices; sometimes we choose wrongly. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (Jas 1:14-15) “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:15)
We have choices to make. Do I follow God, or do I follow my own desires? Do I serve money, or do I serve God? Who is the master in my life? The question is whether we pay attention to the coach (God) or choose to ignore his signs. Some people see the Bible as a rule book. Those of a less legalistic bent see it more as God’s signs. In either case, when we ignore God’s word, we are liable to punishment.
It has been said that baseball is the only undertaking in life where you are considered good if you are successful one third of the time. A .333 batting average, which is very good, means that the batter was successful in not hitting the ball to someone only one time in every three at-bats. Not only is nobody perfect, nobody comes close.
A “perfect game” for a pitcher is one in which no batter gets to first base. It is so rare that it has only happened once in World Series history, and few times in the regular season. But even a perfect game is defined in such a way that a pitcher does not have to be perfect. He is allowed to throw some really bad pitches, as long as the batter does not successfully get a hit off of one of them. Even when a pitcher is perfect, he isn’t perfect.
Left on our own, we are certainly not perfect before God. “So death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom 5:12) If it were possible for a man to be perfect, then Christ would not have had to die. If any other man had been able to live without sin, God could have used him as the perfect sacrifice, and saved his own son from death.
We are not perfect, but like Don Larsen (who pitched a perfect game), we can be considered perfect. With all our faults, we can still be seen as sinless. That is because we are not left on our own. Jesus died on the cross, the perfect sacrifice, that we may be made perfect.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)
Baseball is the only major sport that is played without a clock. There is no time limit on a game. It normally continues until nine innings are completed, no matter how long that may take. Nevertheless, a pitcher knows there is a good chance he won’t complete the game. He may last a short time or long. Still, he gives what he can to the game while he is in it.
We, likewise, don’t know when we will be pulled from the game. “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jas 4:14) We will likely not see the end of our game. That is not an excuse for giving up. God still expects us to play to the utmost of our ability. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:13) Even though the game has no known time limit, we know our limit is soon to come.
Every person in a nine-man lineup has a different job. The lead-off hitter is someone who can get on base frequently. The “clean-up” man (third or fourth in the batting order) is someone who may hit a home run. The number eight hitter (except in the “league that cheats”the American League) should be someone who is less likely to get an out, thus ensuring the pitcher bats in that inning rather than leading off the next. Each batter has his own job. A pitcher does not normally hit home runs, but is often a good bunter. A power hitter is not expected We are not perfect, but like Don Larsen (who pitched a perfect game), we can be considered perfect.to sacrifice. If everyone swung for the fence nobody would be on base to run up the score.
We know that Paul was a fan of Olympic sports. He would also have understood baseball.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. (1 Cor 12:14-20)
Christ’s church is a team. We each have a different function, but that is what makes the church work. We are all working toward one goal. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14) Because we are God’s team we will gain the victory. Oh, that the Chicago Cubs should be so blessed.