Last fall I was able to attend a conference in southern Indiana for preachers. There were only nine of us. I have shared bits of the story on stage and probably in an Enews article in previous months. As part of the trip, they usually take the group to the Louisville Slugger Museum in downtown Louisville, KY. However, because of riots and protests taking place at the time, the museum was not open for visitors. Hearing from other guys that have attended the conference in the past, the trip to the museum was a favorite part of the event. Participants had a behind-the-scenes look at some of the bats used by great baseball players and how the bats are made. I heard that you were allowed to actually handle a bat used by Babe Ruth.
During the tour, the participants would also be given a bat with their names etched in it. Because we were not able to go on the tour, the organizers of the event told us they would still send us a bat if we wanted and, of course, being the sports guy I am, I wanted one. And so several weeks later I received my official Louisville Slugger in the mail with my name etched in it.
Baseball lends Christianity plenty of illustrations. I remember one time being a part of a church in which we set out to create “Home Run” Christians. We had a different level of understanding and activity at each base and the goal was to assist people to come to full maturity in Christ. As a church, we can share how we aren’t a full team unless everyone is in their assigned position. As individual players, we need to keep our eye on the coach as we are running the bases. In life, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus as we are running through life. You get the idea. Lots of illustrations you can use.
One I heard not long ago concerning the bats, however, was from a preacher from Sault Ste. Marie. He was preaching at Family Camp here at Wilderness and he may have received this illustration at the same conference I attended, just years earlier. He said that when you get up to bat, the idea is to swing at just the right time so that the ball hits the sweet spot of the bat. Hitting the sweet spot of the bat gives the hitter the greatest opportunity to hit the ball solidly.
His point was that we need to live in the “sweet spot” of life, the place where we are focused on Jesus in everything we do and say. When we live outside of the “sweet spot,” we run the risk of not living life in the most optimal way to serve the one who created us and saved us.
Yes, the baseball analogies will preach and lend us many different angles to illustrate life. However, life is not a game. Paul compared it to a race in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (NLT) Or in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”(NLT) Life has a beginning (not big inning), a middle, some have long middles, some short, and an ending. And we only get one chance at life, as opposed to many at-bats. Nobody is on the bench and there are no rain delays or rainouts. And whether you swing for the fences or lay down the perfect bunt or miss the ball completely as you swing, you still have to run.
Run as your life depends on it. Because it does. The run starts with hearing, believing, repenting, confessing Jesus, and then uniting with Him in baptism. The run continues with growing to be like Jesus and doing the works He has prepared for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). And the finish line is either when Jesus comes again (please come quickly, Lord Jesus), or when this life is over for you and me. And when we cross the finish line, home plate, the end zone, or put the ball in the 18th hole, that’s it.
I enjoy picking up my bat every now and then and taking some swings in the office. I wasn’t a very good baseball player growing up. I lacked confidence, which made me a little more frightened at the plate of a pitch coming at my head and a little more tentative in the field of a grounder hitting a rock and popping me in the eye or nose. But, in life, I live confidently. Not because I deserve anything God has blessed me with. No, I live confidently because I know Jesus. And in knowing Him, I am not afraid of what life may throw at me. I may not like some of the things I have to live through or dodge, but in the end, I know there is a crown of life for all who have loved His appearing. And as it says in Revelation, I will receive a white stone with a name written on it. A name that is only understood by me and the One who gave it to me (Revelation 2:17b). That, I look forward to receiving and holding on to.