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Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling knows all about spiritual strikeouts!
Ramesh C. Reddy
Editors Note: This is an analogy using baseball terminology and the Bible. It is not meant to attribute any player to Jesus Christ or Satan.
The big inning did not begin when ace pitcher Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox, who supported President George W. Bush for reelection as president of the United States, courageously pitched against the New York Yankees for a victory with the help of his team. Schilling is a follower of Jesus Christ whom He loves a lot and has credited his ability to pitch even with an injury.
It also did not begin when their team came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the American League Championship Series (ALCS) 4-0 against the Yankees or when Schilling pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals, whom they swept 4-0, to win their first World Championship Series in 86 years but “the big inning” began with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mark 1:1 says, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
A big inning in baseball is when a lot of cool things happen: hitting a grand slam as Johnny Damon of the Sox did in the 2nd inning of Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, stealing base after bases, or going to bat in the 9th inning with the game on the line and hitting a home run as David Ortiz did in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees. However, the big inning will come to an end sooner or later in baseball as the World Series has ended this year.
It is not so when it comes to “the beginning” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A lot of cool things can happen with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which we can learn as we look at our playbook, the Bible. This is the “big inning,” and it will not come to an end if we have the right people at bat.
We are all players from “the beginning.” Whether we have a “big inning” or a “small inning” depends on our own personal training and the supporting cast we have as the Boston Red Sox did against the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.
When it comes to our ‘big inning”, it is based on the amount of time we spend in training daily! It starts with listening to our coach, Jesus Christ, looking at his playbook (the Word of God) and talking to him through prayer. It is also important to have a good supporting cast who are the body of believers in Christ to help us in training. This begins with the church being one of our training facilities as we go to condition ourselves frequently. These are ways we condition ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit to face our fiercest opponent---Satan, the devil---when we are at bat.
When we come to the plate and Satan pitches temptations at us, can we resist those temptations and send them out of our system? Or do we strike out at bat? Temptations include giving into the trials and tribulations or vices we face without putting our trust in Christ and the advice from His playbook.
Jesus is the best coach who can help us through temptation because He has been there and overcame temptation against Satan. He did this through the ammunition of Scripture as the weapon to overcome temptation.
Jesus told Satan three things from Scripture to overcome the temptations he was faced with.
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.” (Luke 4:4, NIV)
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.' (Luke 4:8, NIV)
Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test." (Luke 4:12, NIV)
Jesus is setting an example for us when we face temptations.
My favorite part from the coach’s playbook is when I read this advice to help me overcome temptation: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12-16, NIV)
If we decide to handle the temptations on our own no matter how well we are doing, we will not make it. We need the coach and our supporting cast to get us through the temptations.
If we cannot hit those temptations, we will strike out. Strike one, strike two, strike three, and you are outta there! By striking out, we will also hurt our team (body of believers) because the life of a Christian is not a lone-ranger job but team work.
The more strikeouts you get, the harder it will be to convince your coach, Jesus Christ, that you are available and serious about coming to bat. If Jesus does not see that you are serious about living the truth and proclaiming the truth, he could change the lineup and send someone else to come to bat who will bring him and His church, honor and glory.
This however does not mean that Jesus will kick you off the team. When you come to Jesus, you are saved forever for “it is by grace that we are saved through faith and not that of works that anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV).
We will still be on the team but we won’t be productive if we constantly strike out without living the truth and proclaiming the truth. To be used by our coach, we have to be faithful, available, and teachable.
While we are at base, we have an opportunity to steal bases from the devil while he is trying to strike out our brothers or sisters at bat. What you have to do is focus and anticipate what temptation he will throw at you so you can avoid it before it hits you. If you do that, you will have an opportunity to steal bases. There are times you can even hit a single, double, or triple when you anticipate the devil’s temptations, but it is not the same as defeating the temptation completely with a home run.
The pitches the devil sends your way have to be sent out of your system. It is not enough to repress those temptations or just push them close to being out of your system. When that happens, all you have done is created a “pop ball.” The devil’s demons can catch that temptation, send it back at you, and you are outta there.
As a batter you should bring excitement to those around you. Hitting temptations out of your system and living your life in a loving manner as you proclaim the Gospel of Christ can bring joy to the crowds who support for what you stand for. A grand slam occurs when each of us hit the temptations the devil pitches our way out of our system without giving into them.
When we do that we will make our coach Jesus Christ feel proud and honored as we bring Him honor and glory and our brothers and sisters in Christ recognition of the difference our coach plays in our lives.
It will not be easy going against the devil. It will not be easy going against the devil; he has won universal acclaim for striking out people time after time because they were not ready for his pitches of temptations. He prides himself on allowing no hitters. It will not be easy when you come to bat, but you can do it.
Your coach, Jesus Christ went up against the devil and defeated him by resisting his pitches of temptations and also conquering sin and death for us. Jesus who had no sin became sin for us to deliver us from this virus known as sin. His antidote has been His precious cleansing blood shed on the cross for the remission of our sins. Because of Jesus’ willingness to give us a transfusion of change through His blood we are saved when we accept what He has given us and totally surrender to Him.
The Bible says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:6-8a, NIV)
I have also learned not about aluminum bats but an armor of God that we can use to overcome evil. It is invisible but very powerful!
In closing the figurative baseball analogy, the playbook of the Word of God says in Ephesians 6:10-18 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”