Spring Training for Christians
by Shawn McEvoy
We don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong...
2 Corinthians 5:16, The Message
You've probably heard that God loves baseball. After all, He began his holy book with the words, "In the big inning..." Everyone who loves baseball like the Lord does feels a tremendous rush this time of year with another set of words: "Pitchers and catchers report." For the uninitiated, this phrase signals the official start of spring training, which brings with it new hope, and knowledge that at least there's a thaw and green grass in some parts of our country.
In fact, the game I love, and the game of fantasy baseball off which it is based, are both so prevalent in my mind this week that as I sat down to write this I found my mind wandering. So, noticing that a good friend, fellow fantasy baseballer and pastor was active on his Instant Messenger, I began the following conversation:
Me: I'm sitting here trying to write this week's devotional, but I've got a screenful of stats in front of me, taunting me. Pastor Jay, is there any way I could combine the two? Does our league have any good devotional content?
Jay: Oh, I'm sure we do. How about how we peak spiritually at age 27, like most hitters do?
Me: Goodness, I hope that's not true. How about our Spiritual Slugging Percentage... are we whomping our fair quota of sinners and unbelievers regularly?
Jay: Uh, riiiight... How about how On-Base Percentage equals theological correctness/sound doctrine, and Slugging Percentage equals evangelism, the impact you're making for the Lord?
Me: You're on to something.
There are truly spiritual parallels everywhere.
But as is always the case, snippets of insight and truth are only valuable when applicable. The above only served to remind me that it's time to take a break from my analysis of the statistics of men who play a game, and check in on my own statistics, go through my own spring training of sorts.
Today's verse gives us a starting place for where to look, what kind of statistics are important in the Kingdom as opposed to the diamond. Things like height, weight, vertical leap, 40-yard-dash times, race, creed, color, gender... none of those matter. Here's the checklist we'll be using to see who's gonna make the team this season:
On-Base Percentage - Like my buddy said, in our checklist this involves good theology and doctrine. Baseballers like to hear chatter out there on the infield. Are you talking the talk?
Slugging Percentage - Now you have to put the above theology to good use, and walk the walk. How much 'oomph' can you contribute to the goals of the team?
Batting Average - The most you can do is just put the bat on the ball. So many other factors determine if you're gonna get a safe hit or not, meaning you'll probably fail to connect or reach safely at least 70 percent of the time... and that's if you're one of the best. The rest is up to God.
Errors - Can't be avoided, even by the very best of us. What's important is that we don't grow complacent with making them. Biblical ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. Neither is yelling at your teammate for making an error.
Strikeouts and Walks - Both are fine. They reveal effort. The way you know you're off-track is when these become Walkouts and Strikes. I don't need to be leaving, boycotting, quitting, or checking out in the middle of a slump or when the other team is full of punks.
Sacrifices - When the coach calls for you to bunt another person into a more prominent position, will you obediently lay one down? When you can bring in a run by hitting a fly ball for an out will you gladly do so?
Coachability - I can't think of a single reason or supporting scripture for a me-first attitude on the Kingdom Conquerors.
Discipline - To what do you say yes, to what do you say no? What do you fail to do? What do you never fail to do?
Leadership - Look behind you. Is anyone following?
Performance Enhancers - Yes, please. I'm simply not good enough to compete in this game without them. No, not steroids, but the Holy Spirit, and regular Bible study and prayer times.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Watch a sporting event with a younger person this week, and see how many parallels and applications you can make together to our spiritual journey.