I confess to being a big baseball fan. While my lovely bride and many people find baseball to be boring, I am intrigued by the battle between the pitcher and the batter on every pitch and how difficult it is to be successful as a professional baseball player. Put your self in the shoes of the hitter—you are facing a pitcher who is only 60 feet away and can throw the ball up to 98 miles per hour. That gives the hitter less than four tenths of a second to determine if the pitch will be a ball or a strike and if he should swing at it. Now this pitcher also has a bag of tricks which he can use to fool the hitter. He can make that ball break away, down or into the hitter. By changing his grip on the ball the pitcher can also change speeds on the pitch—so in essence what looks like a ball travelling at 95 miles per hour comes in significantly slower and can make the batter look terribly foolish as he flails away at it.
So what does this have to do with our walk as a Christian? Plenty. We face an enemy in Satan who is like that pitcher who can change speeds on us and use deception to make us look mighty foolish at times. He can twist the Word of God ever so slightly and deceive us, causing us to think we are swinging at the right pitch—only to find ourselves headed back to the dugout striking out time after time.
A batter’s best weapons for becoming a great hitter are these: practice time in the batting cage and a careful study of the tendencies and deceptive nature of the opposing pitcher. As Christians, our “batting practice’ is studying the Word of God. The more time we spend in His Word and in prayer, the better equipped we are to stick to the fundamentals of our faith, preparing us for battle against the enemy. And when we study the deceptive techniques of the enemy and how he can change his delivery up, we are better prepared to identify his pitch and not swing at the deceptive pitches he throws at us as believers.
So yes this weekend I confess I will watch a lot of playoff baseball, maybe too much. I will watch a great battle between hitters and the opposing pitchers who are powerful and masters of deception. The truly great hitters like Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Albert Pulous will be prepared with a lot of practice, strong fundamentals and a deep knowledge of the opposing pitcher. And they will probably enjoy some success. But even the great ones will fail at times, striking out. But they will pick themselves off the ground and prepare for the next battle with that pitcher, learning from their previous mistakes and failures.
And as I watch these epic battles I will think about my walk with God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I will be reminded of my need to spend time in the batting cage—studying God’s Word and in prayer. And I will again be reminded that we face a powerful, deceptive enemy who will continue to deceive us if we are not prepared. And when these great hitters strike out on occasion, I will remember the times I have failed as a Christian. But I know God always picks me up off the ground, preparing me for the next battle—a little wiser and a little stronger as I ask him to teach and protect me from that enemy.
So to all baseball fans, here’s to a great weekend of playoff baseball—and to an even greater weekend of victory in Jesus Christ as we walk in His glory and mercy– failing at times, but picking ourselves off the ground by the power of his grace and preparing to once again face our adversary.