The third member of the Starting 9 is the first member of the infield - the position that generally records the most putouts, someone who receives throws from across the diamond the way we must also receive. Grace is the Starting 9's First Baseman.
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Here comes a curveball - this isn’t going to be about Grace as much as it’s going to be about Works. Though we know that our salvation cannot be earned through our works, we focus on our work a lot. In the game of baseball, we tend to gravitate towards the writings of James in this regard:
James 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
The team I’m coaching this summer has allowed me to see this tension on the field clearly. Though we discuss the value of Quality At Bats to the team (see this Bottom of the Ninth from April 1, 2016 to learn more), many of the players still choose to believe that there is only one way to succeed at the plate - a hit. They want a hit because it’s their proof that they earned something. They don’t want a walk or anything that is given to them. It’s a huge hurdle to try to get younger players to understand - often times you win games because of what the other team can’t control and not what you control.
This week, I was blessed to climb my first “14er” with one of my former players (Gray’s Peak was our choice - it’s the one on the left):
He gets married next week and we decided to climb a mountain as we read John Eldrege’s Wild at Heart. If you’ve never climbed such a hill, let me share this much with you - some of the work we do is meant to humble us. I can’t even take credit for that observation. As we were summiting Gray’s Peak, a young man in a branch of the armed forces mentioned this idea. The thought resonated with me as a struggled to finish the climb.
Let me attempt to make the connection between the verse from Ephesians and the verse from James using the mountain climb as an example. I have been saved through my faith in Jesus Christ as being the Son of God. He died and rose again on the third day. His resurrection power is available to each of us through our faith in Him. The fact that I was able to summit Gray’s Peak this week was a testimony to Christ’s power in me. Early in the hike I committed to praying without ceasing throughout the hike. I knew that if I relied upon my flesh to complete the work, I would fail. I believed that if I relied upon the power of the risen Christ that I would be able to finish the hike. While my body still aches from a difficult day, my spirit is soaring because the deed I completed was through His power.
And this is where I hope to encourage more players. Stop relying upon your own flesh. Yes, continue to practice and hone your skills. But while you are growing in those abilities, make a conscious choice to receive the grace given to us through our faith. Find your identity firmly in our risen Savior while you play the game. He cares about you and what He’s trying to teach you in those moments. We’ll be better players and coaches as soon as we cease to rely on our own strength.