Sermon Illustrations

“Oh Please Don’t Hit the Ball to Me!” Psalm 116:1-6 Key verse(s): 3:“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.”

There is no greater temptation than separation from God. There are many things in this life that appear tempting and alluring. The lusts of the body are strong and the lure of the world is ever-pressing. Satan stalks about always looking for a way to pull us down, even ruin us. Yet, all of these things pale in comparison to the temptation that sometimes befalls the Christian to doubt God’s presence in his life.

Growing up, I played hardball on the sandlot level. The sandlot gave way to Little League and, eventually, that gave way to the high school diamond. Maturity, however, brought me to the church softball league. Although I was a pitcher in high school, I was what you called a utility player when it came to softball. I didn’t hit for power as most of my hitting was ground balls. If I could put one between third and short, I was usually satisfied. A one bagger was an achievement for me. I never hit for the cycle and most often played a “non-finesse” position like center or right field. Possessing a pretty good arm, I was able to get the ball into the infield on no more than one hop even from deep center. At first, parked deep in right or center, I possessed a “beginner’s” level of comfort that comes with the understanding that, as a softball player, I was not the best and should no one hit the ball out to me that particular day, I would be satisfied to simply make it through the game without an embarrassing drop of a fly ball or tripping over my cleats.

Over time, however, I got more and more confidence in my ability to play the outfield and even developed a sense of pride in my albeit limited capabilities. I developed an outfield posture, able to pound my glove and crouch menacingly, looking quite comfortable, even capable out there. I even developed the ability to banter and harass the batter, taunting him to hit out to me. Over time I developed this “urge for ball” that every player longs for. You begin to want the ball. The challenge of going after a line drive, leaving your feet to stab the ball and make the incredible play, became my driving force in the outfield. Then, suddenly, that all changed. Just when I had reached the zenith of my confidence in the outfield, the team manager asked me to play the infield. Our second baseman was missing and there was no one else to play the position. I was asked to fill in. Now graduating from the outfield to the infield was a very big transition. The balls come to you a whole lot quicker when you are three times closer to the batter’s box. A quick move in the outfield can look rather sluggish when someone smashes a line drive between you and the first baseman. You have to be more alert and ready for the ball on almost every pitch. Whereas in the outfield should a batter come up that “pulls” the ball to the other field, you can feel pretty confident that you won’t be “getting” the ball on most pitches. Not the case in the infield and especially not at second base. It doesn’t matter if the batter is left-handed or right-handed. It doesn’t matter if the pitcher is pitching “in” or “out.” Second base is a hot-spot and the chances of making a mistake are high.

I knew this as I walked out onto the field and took my place near the second bag. Nonetheless, I had gained a certain level of confidence in the outfield and I figured that this would carry over no matter where I played. I knew how to field a ground ball and had a pretty good throwing arm. Second base? No problem. I could play second base. As the game warm-up began and we threw the ball around the bases, I even developed a bit of swagger. I was playing second base! Hey--I can do this! As the pitcher finished his last warm-up toss he turned around his infielders and checked their positions. “Brunner! Move closer to the bag!” He yelled. A bit startled and then embarrassed that I hadn’t positioned myself well, I obediently moved over. That’s when it hit. “I don’t know how to play second base.” Suddenly, I was separated from my confidence and the swagger was gone. “Oh please don’t hit the ball to me!”

Sometimes God, for His divine purpose and reason, asks us to “play second base.” He withdraws His grace from us and the door is open to temptations pouring in. Triggered by some trauma or great change in life, we become ripe for the ultimate test, life without knowledge that we are God’s and that He will always be there to protect us from every evil. It’s as if, as Martin Luther wrote, “he no longer wills to be our God”. Then, with the Son of God, we cry out, “Where are you Father?” We are “overcome by trouble and sorrow”. In such a vulnerable state we can only hope that “no one hits the ball to us” at that moment in our life. Rest assured, however, even this temptation is under God’s protection. He has heard your cry. He will be your God again once this test has passed. Be strong and keep your eye on the ball.

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