Keith Wahl

Bot9 - The Transformation of Job


“'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’” - Job 42:4

In this exploration of the transformational journey both in film and in my own life, I’ve also looked into God’s Word to see if this pattern holds true. I mean, at the end of the day, does anyone care if Roy Hobbs or other characters from the imaginations of men go through fictional transformation? It takes some work to get our minds and hearts to caring about commonality from fiction. But to see that same pattern of transformation in the lives of men and women in the Bible means something more. It captures our spirit differently.

Take Job, for example. I’ve been studying the wisdom books using the Read Scripture app and videos (watch this video outlining the book of Job to gain some context), and this transformational journey works itself out in Job’s life as well.

We see Job in his Known World (Job 1:1-5) - he is blameless and upright, a picture of righteousness. We learn about his family and read a list of all of his possessions. Because of the deal Satan strikes with God, Job experiences a Fork in the Road when Satan takes his property and his children. Job experiences great loss. Things get progressively worse until Job reaches his No Turning Back moment when his wife tells him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

Job’s Trials & Temptations, like so many of ours, are more spiritual than physical. Job has a Community around him including three friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite - Job 2:11-13) who dialogue with him about the nature of God, justice, and all that has occurred. Late in this dialogue, Job and his friends hear from Elihu (Job 32) for a fresh perspective. Job’s Greatest Obstacle occurs as he presents his final defense and appeal, asking for and encountering God (Job 38). 

After hearing directly from God, Job achieves Transformation and Triumph. His Transformation is represented in his confession and repentance, recognizing his place in creation. The Triumph for Job is spiritual, but it’s also as the Lord restores Job’s fortunes (Job 42:10-17).

Ultimately, Job, and all of man, is called to trust God’s wisdom in the good and the difficult times. When we do, we are restored to fresh levels of relationship with God and man. Job’s Wisdom to Share may be best represented in his confession and repentance below (Job 42:1-6). Now that most high school and college seasons are over for the summer, may we all draw close to the Lord and embrace His wisdom over our own.

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Bot9 - Wisdom to Share


“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” - James 1:5

This verse seems so simple. Don’t have wisdom? Ask God for it and He’ll give it to you. The problem is that this process is far from simple. Gaining wisdom is a process.

I remember my early classes studying journalism. In a lead you have to answer the 5 Ws and the H - Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. If James 1:5 is your lead, we can answer some of those questions clearly:

Who? You and God.
What? Wisdom.
Why? You lack it. God will give it if you ask because He is grace.

What questions aren’t answered? When, Where, and How. Pretty big questions to leave unanswered and it seems that wisdom is hard to come by. It’s not for the instant-gratification crowd. Wisdom isn’t just provided for you - it’s found and earned through a journey. That’s the answer to How. When and Where occur during and after the journey, most often from angles you never expected.

I wonder what wisdom Roy Hobbs would share after his baseball journey. He’s back on the farm, and his life has settled down. As he gazes into his glove, what is he thinking? How much as he learned, what has he learned, and what would he share with us? While we can only guess at those answers, this much I do know - he went through a lot to earn his wisdom.

Speaking from recent experience, I believe that a journey comes after praying for wisdom. While this may cause hesitation for some, a journey provided by God is well worth any difficulty. Pray for wisdom, go on a journey, and prepare to grow immensely. After your journey, don’t hold that wisdom for yourself. It’s meant to be shared.

Bot9 - Transformation


When the Lord puts us through a transformational journey, the point of the journey is our transformation. A simple definition of transformation is a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. God is trying to change us and transform us for our good. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The point of the journey is our transformation. Many traditions and much of postmodern literature focuses on the idea that “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” (quote from Ursula K. Le Guin but is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway). What does this mean and is it true?

In this idea, the journey becomes paramount over the destination. In the film version of The Natural, Roy Hobbs reaches ultimate transformation in his journey back home to the farm. He’s playing catch with his son and his wife is by his side. His life has come full circle. We look at Hobbs with different eyes because we have witnessed every part of his journey. However, we don’t know all that has happened inside of Hobbs’ heart.

Through the filter of the Christian life, we know that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, the journey of the heart towards Christ is largely an internal journey. It’s not always apparent that the old has gone and the new has come by outward appearance. We change internally, but others still recognize us as the same.

This presents a tremendous challenge to everyone who has been on a transformational journey. Not only must we allow Christ to change our hearts, we must be witness to that change by exhibiting different outward actions. I wonder if this is God somehow weaving these two verses together in the perception of others:

Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Philippians 3:20-21 - “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

We are transformed by the renewal of our minds (the internal journey), we can discern the will of God which affects our outward actions, and Christ transforms our body in a way that allows others to witness transformation. As we are all on a journey, it seems that we have the opportunity to be filled with grace towards everyone as we hope they will be filled with grace towards us in our own process. Love your own process, but love the process God has others on as well!

Bot9 - Triumph


The word "triumph" fits when a person or character overcomes their greatest obstacle. Triumph only works as it applies to a great victory or achievement. It comes at the end of a long journey and it doesn't come easily. Triumph doesn't fit anything that applies to instant gratification. It's a word that hints at a great spiritual overcoming.

The triumphant moment is worthy of horns blaring or fireworks falling on the field, as they did at the conclusion of The Natural. The word once referred to how a victorious general would be greeted back home in Ancient Rome. Crowds cheering, music playing, and people celebrating. These are the signs of a triumph.

One of my favorite moments of triumph happened in the dugout of the 2016 state championship at Valor Christian. We were up 9-5 going into the bottom of the seventh, but those last three outs were far from easy. Our opponent, Pueblo West, was a gritty, very competitive group. They had beaten us in the double elimination tournament the weekend before. With one out and a runner on first, a potential double play ball bounced oddly over our shortstop's head. Then with two outs, the hitter hit a ball to our pitcher's backhand. While the ball hit his glove and bounced close enough for an easy play at first base, that particular pitcher had experienced the "yips" throwing to first base throughout the spring. He bounced the ball to our first baseman, who made a great play to keep the ball in front of him (video would show that he caught the ball for an out, but whatever), the runner was called safe and a run scored. The score was now 9-6 with their most powerful hitter coming to the plate.

It was here that the sounds of triumph began. First, I took a mound visit to check on the guys. Let's just say that the first baseman made a joke, the team laughed, and I felt good about where they were mentally. But my tension was still high. That tightness in my belly kept growing as I went down the dugout steps. As I turned to watch the action, a song came to my ear - Chris Tomlin's "Good, Good Father." It wasn't actually playing, but I heard a song and I started quietly singing along. Soon after the chorus began, the opposing hitter blasted a line drive that landed in our right fielder's glove. The celebration was on and the triumph was complete.

While at the end of the day this is just winning a baseball game, it's a symbol of being victorious after a long journey. It's a reminder that keeps me believing that I can triumph again. I hope our Bot9 readers have those same reminders as they walk with the Lord through their journeys. They are valuable for more than just the victory.

Bot9 - The Greatest Obstacle


The highest mountain.

The darkest tunnel.

The deepest abyss.

The greatest obstacle of any character or person is the climax of the journey, the moment of desperation, that all-in moment. It’s the moment when we ask “Will he survive this?” or “Will he emerge victorious?” Hollywood has desensitized us to this, to some extent by making every character win in the end, but more on that in a minute.

This is the moment in the journey that has to be so bleak that we (the audience or those witnessing it) are just not sure if the character or person is going to succeed or even survive. The ultimate example of this is Easter - Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Jesus was dead. The Scripture makes this clear in John 19:34 when the solider pierces Jesus’s side and blood and water comes from the wound. His disciples are downtrodden and all seems lost.

But Jesus emerges from the tomb. He is raised from the dead and overcomes the ultimate. Hallelujah!

On the baseball field, this journey is occurring on some level throughout a season for every player. Everyone faces a series of difficulties, often coming to a head late in the season. Sometimes it even looks like Roy Hobbs from The Natural. His bat has been broken, his weapon vanquished. He’s bleeding from the side, the wound he suffered earlier in his journey (those wounds look different for every player, but they’re always there). There’s a young fireballer on the mound looking to grab the mantle of fame. It’s a beautiful picture of a climactic moment on a baseball field, and we see it all of the time.

Now, and here’s a spoiler alert of all spoiler alerts, the best part of The Natural is largely unknown. While Hobbs succeeds in overcoming his greatest obstacle in the movie, he fails in the book. Can you believe that? What an incredible juxtaposition of the same character! The filmmakers paint the classic picture of Hollywood success, while the author (Bernard Malamud) provides a very human picture of what so many experience in baseball. The amazing thing is that both stories work.

In the words of another wise baseball sage, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes it rains.” This is true in the game of baseball and in some of the great journeys of life. Thankfully, at the end of all of it, for those who acknowledge Christ as Lord, we know that through Jesus’s resurrection that we will all share eternal life with Him. That represents the ultimate journey for all of us.

Bot9 - Trials & Temptations


The next stage of the spiritual journey includes trials and temptations. Many trials and many temptations. Generally speaking, either in life or when watching a character work through this journey in film, this is the bulk of time spent. We have so many things to work through, confront, and overcome before we are prepared. The preparation is for the final mountain to climb or to dive deep into the abyss (to mix metaphors). It’s the preparation for the greatest struggle and every step along the way is necessary.

Scripture, in particular the New Testament writings, speaks specifically to trials and temptations. James 1:2-4 is probably the verse referenced most often in the context of trials:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The Apostle Peter also references trials in 1 Peter 1:6-7:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Though we often point to the Cross when connecting the idea of trials and temptations to Jesus, Christ refers directly to trials in Luke 22:28-30:

You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Trials and temptations are real and they will be rewarded. It is also important to remember that nothing will be wasted in the process. Erwin McManus spoke to this idea in his weekly message through the Mosaic podcast just this past week. As we work through difficulty, nothing will be wasted in the process. We will need and use all of the lessons learned in our journey, and everything we go through has value.

In this vein, I think about Roy Hobbs from The Natural and The Lady in White. She is his long-since-forgotten love from back on the farm, the one that he left behind to chase his dream. But, right in the middle of a road trip, there she is. An experience not wasted and on opportunity to learn. As you work through a trial yourself, or as your watch a character work through it in film, remember that every lesson learned will be used for good. Nothing is wasted.

Inside-Out Living - HS Coaches Edition


Complete Game has partnered with the Colorado Dugout Club, the high school baseball coaches association. As a part of that partnership, CG will be producing a series specifically for high school coaches. As this special series draws to a close, we hope these posts have served to unite, encourage, and resource the baseball community in Colorado and across the country.

It’s playoff time. As the saying goes, “the cows are in the barn.” Coaches and players across the state have done all they can to prepare for the moments to come - the elimination games, the moments of passion and excitement, and the trophy presentations. May is in exciting time for baseball in the state of Colorado.

During this time of the year, it’s incredibly important for us to recognize and remember where we are placing our identities as coaches as the season draws to a close. If your identity as a man and as a coach is based on the outcome of your season, odds are you’re going to judge yourself as a disappointment. Five teams will win a baseball state championship, while over 300 started the year on the diamond. Outcomes cannot dictate our identity.

Throughout the Bible, it seems that God is far more interested in humans engaging in inside-out living, keeping our identity centered on Christ. The heart is where God desires to dwell. He’s not looking at the outside, but the inside. As David is chosen by the Lord for His purposes in 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord says to Samuel, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

As a coach and as a leader, you control two things - the atmosphere you create in the program and the habits you’ve allowed to develop throughout the year. Has the atmosphere you’ve created reflected the joyous overflow of your heart? Are you building intentional, loving relationships with our God and with your athletes to an effort to build your atmosphere? Are the habits you’re trying to create within the players based on living ideas? Do those habits reflect Paul’s thoughts to the Philippians: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8)?

Whether your season is coming to an end or playoff intensity is set to rise, seek to get your team to compete WITH the team in the other dugout and not AGAINST that team. You’re each playing the game and drawing out the best in one another. The greatest athletes in the world understand this idea and it draws out the beauty in a competition. Your players and your coaches are going to rise to the level of their training. You might as well create a beautiful atmosphere and enjoy the day, win or lose. Continue to find new ways to live an inside-out life with Christ at the center of your heart!

Bot9 - Community


One of the most important phases of a transformational journey is being introduced to the community around the hero. For baseball players, like Roy Hobbs, the community includes teammates, coaches, and others who are consistently around the team like trainers, mental game coaches, etc.

Biblically, this theme and idea appears time after time. One of the capstone verses around this idea appears in Hebrews 12:1 when the author of the letter says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” The heading of that section points to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith, as the one who places this cloud of witnesses all around us.

It’s interesting that Jesus had a community surrounding Him as well, further enhancing the importance of living the Christian life with others. For the disciples, Jesus has planned rewards for those who stood with Him through His many trials in Luke 22:28-30:

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

This brings me to wonder this - when we stand beside brothers and sisters in Christ through their trials, will we also receive a treasure in heaven? When we choose to stand by a teammate or a friend in their most difficult times, what do we gain? I’m not suggesting that we should do so for a personal gain, but I wonder if we will be rewarded in some way later. If nothing else, we should seek to grow the community around us and grow that community for others as well.

Bot9 - No Turning Back


As you’ve taken your first steps out of your comfort zone and overcome the hesitation to move forward, you reach the third stage of the journey - no turning back.

In my opinion, this may actually be a more frightening stage than even the climactic obstacle to conquer, which comes much later. It’s here where everything’s different. The rules have changed. You aren’t sure who is in power and where you fit. You’re not in Kansas anymore.

For Roy Hobbs in The Natural, the New York Knights represent this whole new world and no turning back moment. Why can’t he get in the lineup? Who are the owners up in the private luxury box int he sky? Why is this team stuck in a wasteland without success? This isn’t the joy and glamour he was hoping to experience by reaching the highest level of the game. But it doesn’t matter, there’s no turning back. He’s in the journey and must continue to forge forward.

Take this to the New Testament and imagine the disciples who have chosen to follow Jesus. They’ve seen and heard him do some amazing things - turn water into wine, healings, and a new levels of grace. But you’ve also seen him raise the ire of the establishment. People want to kill him. Is Jesus truly the Son of God who will overcome the power of the Sanhedrin and Pharisees? The disciples are along for the ride. They don’t have any power in the situation, but there’s no turning back. 

Peter’s response to Jesus in John 6:66-69 may capture this the best. The scene goes like this:

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

When we reach the point of no turning back, it’s vital that we live our lives inside out. Our relationship with God is central to our being - He is the unchanging rock and we trust no one before Him. When we are struck with fear in this no turning back moment, we lean back into the Lord and trust that He does indeed have the words of eternal life.