Lessons from the Bible and Baseball

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." - Ted Williams 

From spending hours playing baseball and wiffle ball in our backyard with my brothers, to little league, American Legion league, high school, and college, baseball has been a pretty significant part of my life for a long time. One of the great things about baseball is that it teaches you.  It teaches you lessons about life and how to deal with difficulty.

For instance, as a pitcher I had to learn that getting upset about things didn't help the situation.  If I jammed a hitter and he was lucky enough to have the ball fall in, even though I did my job, the batter reached base.  If a fielder booted a routine ground ball, I didn't do anything wrong, yet the batter was now on base.

It was frustrating when things like that happened, but if I let it get to me, things got worse in a hurry.  I had to learn to control my emotions, to block out what happened and bear down on getting the next batter out.  Losing your cool is of no help.

As a pitcher, there is a lot of the game that you can control, but there's even more that is outside of your control and you have to learn to be okay with that.  You have to learn not to lose your cool and get rattled with things aren't going well.

That lesson has served me well as a pastor.  Knowing that I'm in control of very little in the grand scheme of things and that all I can do is what God has given me to do helps me not to get rattled when things don't go as planned.

But what really got me thinking about baseball and the Bible was the gospel reading from this past Sunday, which was the parable of the sower and the seeds.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear." 
 "Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
-Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The seed sown is the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God for salvation.  Yet even as that Word is sown, the results are spotty.  Most of the seed sown doesn't result in bearing fruit, which is to say that most of those who hear the gospel will not come to and remain in saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Here's the thing about evangelism; You can do everything right and present the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully, but most of those who hear it will not come to faith in Jesus. This is a hard truth.

But we see it happen even in the ministry of Jesus Himself.  In John 6, most of those who had been following Jesus turn away from Him after He refuses to give them what they want (bread) and instead tells them that the true bread that they need is Him.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him-John 6:66
The truth is, when we share our faith, we we evangelize, there isn't likely to be a huge number of people who respond all at once and come to faith.  In a one on one situation, we are going to face more times when the message is rejected than when it is received.

And again, baseball can help us to keep perspective.

  • Ted Williams was one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball, yet he made the point that even the greatest hitters fail far more than they succeed.  
  • Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs and had a .342 career batting average.  But the Sultan of Swat also struck out 1330 times in his career.  
But, their failure didn't keep them from continuing to strive to be the best players they can be. 

In a similar way, as Christians when we share the gospel and it isn't received by those listening, we shouldn't lose heart.  After all, we're not even responsible for the result!  That's entirely the work of the Holy Spirit.  

We're not called to be successful in bringing people to Christ.  We're called to spread the seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Much of that seed will fall on rocky hearts, hardened hearts, and thorny hearts, but some of it will fall on hearts that will receive the good news, by the power of the Holy Spirit believe the gospel, and then as they then spread more seed the number of believers will continue to grow. 

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." - Ted Williams 

In evangelism we don't need to strive for a .300 average because the fact is we have a .000 average since we can't bring someone to faith.  Only the Holy Spirit can actually convert someone to faith in Jesus.  Instead, we can simply focus on being faithful to our calling to spread the seed of the Gospel and leave the growth entirely in the hands of God.  When we've done that, no matter the outcome, we've done exactly what God would have us do.


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