This week I went to watch a brother in Christ play in a high school baseball game. He is a pitcher on the team, and this is his senior year. That night was also senior night, so going out to support him was something I was glad to do. A number of members from our congregation went to the game to support our brother and we had a good time. My initial plan was to go to the game and support and encourage my brother in Christ. Although I went to encourage, I left very encouraged by the things I was able to learn from sitting in the bleachers.
Christians are told to encourage each other everyday (Heb. 3:13). We are not sure in what ways this will happen from day to day. Yet, we must always be selfless enough to encourage others and humble enough to be encouraged ourselves. The great thing about the truths of scripture is that they are not just meant to be applied in the stain glass cathedrals on Sunday, but they are meant to be lived out daily (Lk. 9:23). The lessons we learn from the Bible come alive when we get them off the pages of the Bible into our heart (Ps. 119:11). When we put “work clothes” on our Christianity we walk with Christ in the manner He desires us to. I learned two eternal lessons as I sat in the stands on senior night, allow me to share them with you.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
At one time during the game one of the young men got up to bat and hit what seemed to be a home run but it wasn’t, it was a pop up to center field and was caught by the other team for an out. An older gentleman who is a fellow Christian leaned over and said to me, “That had a lot of promise, but it didn’t amount to much, did it?” As funny as it was, it was true. The ball looked like it would go far, people began to stand up and prepared to cheer, but they were soon let down. What seemed so promising and successful was a false hope and ultimately a let down.
A lot of people in life hit pop ups. They are enjoying their life in the world while ignoring God. They look like they are winning and are succeeding, but really they are failing (Ps. 73:1-20). Many who love the world fail to see that they are in love with a world that is passing away (1 Jn. 2:15-17). Sin is pleasurable at times, but that pleasure is seasonal and temporary (Heb. 11:24-26). Some people seem like they are hitting home runs, it looks like they are sending one over the fence, but in the day of judgment they will see it was nothing more than a pop up. Do not be deceived concerning the Divine law of sowing and reaping. We cannot sow to the flesh and reap spiritual fruit (Gal. 6:7-9). The sinful life that is plastered on our televisions and social media feeds is a lot like the pop up I saw: “has a lot of promise but does not amount to much” (see Mt. 16:24-26).
There is No “I” in “We”
The biggest lesson I learned from the game came from my brother in Christ I went to see play. It was his senior night, and he pitched two to three great innings. His team was winning and he had made no big errors (to my knowledge), but then he was taken out of the game. He is the only senior on the team, it’s senior night, the team is winning, and they take him out of the game. He never went back in, he didn’t get to hit, he was done for the night. I wanted them to let him play more, I wanted him to go back in and that’s when I learned the lesson. He never complained, raised his arms, or pouted about how unfair things were. He did not sulk or whine (like you see in professional sports), or draw attention to himself. The opposite happened. He cheered his teammates on, and encouraged them when they scored. He showed genuine happiness as other players made big plays. On a night that should have been about him as a senior, he was able to make it about the team.
Our Christianity needs to be like this! God has given us all different talents and abilities. We do not need to be envious of each other (Rom. 12 :3-8). We need to rejoice in the cause of Christ more than we want to see ourselves on the stage receiving applause. Christianity is about Christ—not about me. One man was right when he said, “the world preaches self-esteem, Christ preaches self-denial” (cf. Mt. 20:27-28). Paul was not glory hungry, but wanted Christ preached whether or not he was the one doing the preaching. Even if those doing the preaching had corrupt motives (Phil. 1:15-18). Humility is a lesson that we all need to be continually taught (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:6).
In Christ, when one brother does a good work, we all rejoice in that with him. We should not be jealous that it wasn’t us, or that we are going unnoticed. We should not feel that God should put us “back in the game” because we have so much to add to the cause, but should realize God can use all of us in His perfect timing (Phil. 2:13). It is not hard to weep with people going through a hard time, it is much more difficult to rejoice with others, especially when you wish it was you in the spotlight (Rom. 12:15). Jesus could have boasted, but he was humble. We need to be more like Him (Phil. 2:5-8).
I had a good time at the game. I was able to enjoy time with brothers and sisters in Christ and support a younger brother in Christ. I did not go to the game fishing for theological illustrations, but the lessons learned that night will stick with me. The next night I was privileged to teach the teenage class and try to point them closer to Christ. But, on senior night, I was in class. The lessons I learned about humility and being a team player I won’t soon forget. Kyle taught me something about not looking out for my own interest but what would benefit the team (Phil. 2:4). I believe the apostle Paul was a sports fan, he alludes to it on more than one occasion to make a spiritual point (Phil. 2:16; 3: 12-14). We can learn lesson throughout life if we are looking in the right place. By the way, the brother I went to see won the game 15-4. Isn’t that what it’s all about in the end? As long as we win in Christ, never mind who gets the credit (1 Cor. 15:57). Christianity is bigger than a baseball game but we can still learn from it:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:24-27).