Anyone who knows me, knows that since my oldest child was seven we have been on the baseball field almost every weekend from February through July. I am currently reading Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman. Now, you may wonder what that has to do with baseball. Hang on. For all of you sports fans, you know that there is an app called GAMECHANGER. It’s for following your favorite teams. You sign on as either “fan” or “family”. This weekend my youngest son was playing on a pick-up team. When I signed on to GAMECHANGER I signed on as a fan, since this is a team I would not normally be following. Anyone can follow as a “fan”, but you have to be accepted by the administrator of the team to follow as “family”. It occurred to me as I watch on GAMECHANGER that you don’t feel as connected, or rooted, to the team if you are signed on as a “fan” rather than “family”. As I ponder this thought, it also occurred to me that our invitation to follow Christ actually can be equated to a good game of baseball. This is in no way meant to minimize the invitation to follow Christ and any references to “strike out” or “thrown out” are strictly for illustration only. Believe me, my two boys get struck out or thrown out ALL THE TIME.
The games begins. The pitcher throws the ball. You are at the plate. You swing. Do you strike or do you make contact? Invitation to Christ. Do you miss the opportunity or do you take the opportunity? Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. You’re out! Will you give up? Or, will you keep your head in the game, seizing the next opportunity? Your next “at bat”. Will you go back to the dugout just being a fan or will you keep trying to be a part of the family? Thankfully, God never gives up on us. He will keep giving us invitations for every “at bat” and will never take us out of the game and put us at the end of the batting order due to poor performance. The next time you’re up, the ball is thrown and this time you make contact. You run to first base, but not quite fast enough and you get thrown out. You get mad at the pitcher because he was the one who threw you out. You accept the invitation to follow Christ, but at the first play…the first difficulty…the first trial or temptation…you’re out. Not putting quite the effort into it that was needed to stay in the game. To fight the fight of faith. It’s the third time around and you are up again. The ball is thrown and you make contact, making it to first base this time. Once again, God has given you an opportunity to follow Him. You accept and you make it through the first battle. In fact, you have a little hope now. You might just make it to second base. A few more storms of life. Will you make it safely while fully placing confidence in Christ, or will you barely slide in- unsure if you will make it or not? Or, do you get tagged out while running to second base because you didn’t follow your coach’s instructions and you thought you could do it on your own? You didn’t listen to God speak to you and follow His instruction. Let’s say you get tagged out and you go back to the dugout. This time, you learn from your mistake and when you make it to first base again you will listen on your way to second base.
Now, you are safely on second base. You are a little overwhelmed with the game, but you see your coach waiting for you at third base. You are watching his signs. You have been invited to walk on this journey with Christ. You know you made it through the hardest part, which was accepting the invitation and making it through the first few storms that might have discouraged you from pursuing our Father. However, you feel as though you are half-way there. You are beginning to mature a little in Christ. You are still a fan of the the game at this point, but you know that if you can make it to home plate you will be a part of the “run scored” family. It is still a little scarey, but you begin to see signs of your Coach, our Heavenly Father, working in your life. You are beginning to gain confidence in your journey. You steal to third. Ahh. Home plate is in site. You are a more experienced “base runner” by now and you can see the hope of making it home. Making it to our Father’s arms opened wide and waiting. The “family” is cheering you on. They know you have struggled with “running the bases,” but they feel as though you will make it home safely. You are trying to drown out the “fans” so that you can see hear the “family” cheering. You need the encouragement. You are pulling on their faith and confidence in your accomplishment of making it this far. You see, the fans are all yelling different things at you. Each fan has their own idea of what you should be doing. But, you know that your Coach will tell you just how to make it to home plate. Your Coach, meaning God. You are learning to drown out the “fans” and hear God’s word in your daily life. The prize is at home plate. Our Father with arms open. You listen. You surrender your own ideas of how to cross the plate and you turn it over to our Coach. It’s been a struggle, but YOU MADE IT! You scored a run! You are part of the “runs scored” family. You are a part of the Christ-follower family. You are no longer just a fan. You listened. You learned. You watched for God’s instruction in your life. You became a committed Christ-follower. Congratulations! You allowed Christ to be your “Game” Changer.