Get your stance straight….
The game IS over!
Glance to your left….
There’s a runner on first, and he’s two and a half steps toward second…. Tall with great strides, he looks intimidating, but you know he’s not as fast as the guy on third base.
You've just finished warming up your arm with several practice pitches. The coach wants you to finish up this game. As the batter swivels his bat in the air, you hear taunting coming from the opponent’s dugout distracting you. Your catcher throws out signs, but you’re more interested in how far the batter’s gloves are choked up on that bat.
“You got this,” is called out from loved ones in the stands.
Just as you’re about to come set, you notice out of the corner of your eye the first base runner powerfully clapping his hands in the air as if he’s trying to get someone in front of him to blink. A slight turn of the head reveals him stretching out his right leg and arm, wiggling his fingers and pointing his toe in the direction he intends to run.
You’re tempted to fire that ball to your left instead of straight ahead. You only have a half a second to do so before the ump calls you on a balk, and then you’re penalized. If that happens, the runners would advance putting the game at a tie and the opposing team one run away from winning this game.
Bottom of the last inning and two outs leaves you needing one more to win this. But first, two scenarios roll through your mind:
If you throw to first, the runner, who is a few feet off the base, will make a run for it. Your first baseman will probably throw the ball to second giving the runner on third just enough time to use the distraction to run home…that would also tie up the game.
But if when you throw to first, your catcher quickly reacts, seeing that runner shoot off his bag and head right for him, maybe he’ll scream out, “HOME!” If the first baseman pays attention, he’ll sacrifice his runner and throw the ball home instead. At best, the catcher will get the guy out. At worst, the runner will retreat, the ball will fly back and forth in a pickle, and that shifty kid will manage to steal home anyway…not to mention there’s every possibility in between.
Those few moments of thinking allows you to fully come set and ready to pitch. It’s now too late to attempt any scenario. Friends and family seeing your anguishing facial expressions help you get refocused with encouraging words.
“Don’t worry about the other runners,” your coach yells out.
“Come on, Son. Just throw to the glove,” says the voice of your father.
“Let your defense back you up. Get this guy out,” comes from a familiar friend.
Their words repeat in your head.
You can hear the footsteps of the guy on first taking liberty to advance to the next base. It was a leisurely trot making you feel even worse that you had to let him go. He knows you lost your opportunity, so he takes advantage of your vulnerability and easily makes a steal.
But you don’t let it shake you as those powerful words continue to echo deep down inside.
One more deep breath gives you the confidence to pull that leg up and reach that arm back. A solid strike is all you’re looking for.
Your follow through is perfect.
Your release is impeccable.
And just as the ball leaves your hand, the third base runner leaves his bag as if he’s racing the ball to the plate. His attempt is arrogant…obviously expecting a “home run” from his teammate instead of a strike. Never the less, his attempt is futile as one teenage boy’s legs cannot catch the speed of a ball shot from the power of another teenage boy’s right arm.
For a split second you think to yourself, “The catcher is sure to get that guy out.” But the contest makes no difference and your moment of hope is cut short when you hear the crack, the one that makes your heart stop and everything else go silent.
You want to watch the ball, but you can’t. You’re frozen at the mound watching as first one runner comes in, and you know the second is right behind.
They know the rules. Everyone runs on two outs. No need to stay close to the bag and tag up.
This is it.
Two runs and they win.
“It’s all over now, isn't it? I lost the game.” You think to yourself.
Finally the crowd roars as you expected them to, and your eyes rise to look beyond the fence at the disappointment in your own team.
Turning around, your heart not only starts beating again, but racing with adrenaline. Your center fielder is running in with his glove in the air carrying the ball he caught. Your teammates are all running toward you.
The game IS over!
Intense…isn't it? It may be a snapshot taken out of a little league game but it sure is impacting. It just doesn't seem fair. The pressure a pitcher is under is unbelievable, especially toward the end of a close game. How can he truly follow through with his job of throwing strikes when he’s constantly being distracted, taunted, and taken advantage of?
That’s the way life is. Most of us don’t realize it, but all those things are happening to us…ALL THE TIME!
I know it happens to me. I’m the pitcher. My opponents are the world, my flesh, and myriads of demons. My job is to focus on Jesus, my catcher.
A pitcher must trust his catcher, focusing only on the mitt, and following his signs. The catcher has the vantage point. He sees all from his position. He communicates to everyone else telling them how many outs, and where the play is at. He’s protecting the most coveted plate in the game, home plate. He is to be a rock wall that the ball cannot get past.
Like the pitcher, I need to keep my eyes on the one who sees all and knows all, my rock, my home plate protector.
"Do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."
The pitcher must block out the noise from the opponent’s dugout…the voices. They’re the ones cheering on their own players making the pitcher feel like he hasn't got a chance.
Likewise, there’s a constant stream of voices taunting me, whispering lies to me and telling me that I haven’t got a chance. But I know better. I block them out and replace them with the truth that comes from my heavenly Father, my friends, and my mentors.
“You got this!”
“Just stay focused!”
“Let your outfielders back you up!”
And what about those outfielders? I seem to recall a cute little 90’s movie, a remake of a cute little 50’s movie called…"Angels in the Outfield."
The average teenage little league player can be awfully talented out there catching fly balls and line drives, but they can also make a lot of mistakes. Likewise, infielders at that age can rack up quite a few errors in the average game. Even in the big leagues there’s no guarantee of perfect fielding. It makes the pitcher’s job all the more difficult. He wants to trust them, but what if…?
In this life, for those who have put their trust in Christ, we have guaranteed help at our disposal.
“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
2 Kings 6:16
For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go.
There are real angels fielding balls for us, but they’re using powerful weapons of warfare to do so. And they outnumber the opposing team. We need not worry about a few runners sneaking around bases deceiving us. God has set up a system like no other. He has made sure that our back is covered, while He Himself is in our line of sight. He is our greatest asset, our greatest advocate, and our greatest source of power.
What can we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
All we have to do is focus on Him, pull up that leg, stretch back that arm, and throw out God’s Word to our enemy. If we pay attention to the signs He’s giving us, we’ll know exactly what to say.
It’s kind of like…listening to the Holy Spirit.
“…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” Luke 12:12
Now, if our enemy tries to knock it out of the park with his silly little stick, no worries. Our defense will work for us…and they’re not teenage little league players…they are mighty warriors, and they never ever err.
This is it…the real game of life…only it’s not a game. It’s a battle, but it’s a winnable battle! There’s no reason to worry or be anxious, because like I said, God has us covered if we focus on Him. Then we can finish up fighting the good fight victoriously.
Fight the good fight for true faith. 1 Timothy 6:12
And all the glory goes to Jesus…my MVP!
Go ahead…”Play Ball!”