Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. . .Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)
While perhaps currently being overshadowed by the NBA and NHL playoffs, major league baseball is in full swing. Scripture describes God as long-suffering (Exodus 34:6) but the same description applies to Pittsburgh Pirates fans. I should know. I am one. With 20 losing seasons in a row, the Pittsburgh Pirates set the record last year with the most consecutive losing seasons of any team in history of major professional sports in the US. However as the saying goes, hope springs eternal. The Pirates have for the last two seasons managed to have a winning record through the all-star break and appear to be track to repeat that feat for this season. The team currently possesses the third best record in the National League. (Unfortunately the two teams whose records are better than the Pirates happen to be in their same division.)
Complete games, where the starting pitcher pitches for all nine innings are rare feats in modern baseball. With the stratospheric salaries in the baseball, teams are seeking to preserve their costly investments in pitchers’ arms. Managers attentively monitor pitch count, the number of pitches a pitcher throws in a given outing. Often a pitcher will be removed after throwing 100 pitches regardless of the number of innings he has pitched. The starting pitcher is spelled by a relief pitcher. Even once the relief pitcher enters the game; it is unlikely that he will finish pitching it. Relief pitching has become a very specialized part of the game of baseball, with middle relievers, set up relievers, closers and left-handed and right-handed specialists. There may be times when a relief pitcher faces only one batter.
In the “game” of life, we often get knocked around. At times we feel like the starting pitcher who loaded the bases and then gives up a base clearing grand-slam home run. We look over wistfully to the dugout for the signal that we’re be pulled from the game. For once, we’d like to hit the showers early, retire to the clubhouse and drown out sorrows. Yet God, the manager of our souls, keep us in the game when we’re begging to come out. He is teaching us the game of faith, and he wants us to finish the game.
When I find myself in dire straits and feel like hitting the showers, I am reminded that God is the “author and finisher” of my faith. Though battered and experiencing arm soreness, he insists I complete the game. However I cannot complete the game in my own strength. I must rely on his grace, his divine enablement, to do so.
Listen to the Apostle Paul when he found himself in a bases loaded, no one out situation in the bottom of the ninth inning with the tying run at the plate and being behind in the count three balls to no strikes; “We want to remind you, friends, of the trouble we had in the province of Asia. The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive. We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us. But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead” 2 Cor. 1:8-9 (GNT).
In baseball terms, while we remain in the game as the pitcher, God comes along side of as the relief pitcher. He “renews our strength” (Isaiah 40:31). He reinvigorates our arm to allow us the throw strikes. If we ourselves flat on our backs, he takes the mound and pitches us out of a jam.
As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I’m glad that Pirates closer, Jason Grilli, currently leads major league baseball in saves. As a Christian, I’m overjoyed Jesus Christ leads eternity in “saves.” Jesus always pitches a complete game.