Summary: Baseball is a game where players fail more often than they succeed. And sometimes our Christian life can be like baseball.
How many of you are watching the baseball playoffs this week? It's that time of year when the Division winners and wildcard teams are vying for the World Series. Now most of you know that I’m a big baseball fan of the Atlanta Braves and have been since 1966 when the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. But I follow all the baseball action most of the season.
Judy and I were in San Francisco last week and the talk of the town was the San Francisco Giants. They were playing in a wildcard game on Wednesday night against the Mets. Now a wildcard game is a one-game playoff of sorts to see if the Giants would go to the division series.
They won the game on Wednesday and now they are playing the Chicago Cubs for a chance to go on to the League Championship Series against either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals. The winner of that championship series goes on to play in the World Series against the American League winner.
Baseball is an interesting game. There is a lot of strategy that goes on behind the scenes as the managers, coaches and players decide what pitches to throw, what defensive alignment to use, and who is going to cover what base in case the ball is hit.
But what is unique about the game of baseball is that it is a game where even the best players fail more often than they succeed.
For instance, the best hitters in baseball have a batting average of around .300. And you might say, well, if the best hitters in baseball hit .300, then that must be pretty good.
But what that really means is that the best hitters only get a hit about 3 out of every 10 times at bat. Ty Cobb, the best hitter ever to play the game, had a .366 lifetime batting average. What that means is that Ty Cobb either struck out or hit into an out about 6 or 7 times for every 10 at bats. In other words, Ty Cobb failed as a hitter more than he succeeded. And so have all the good hitters ever to play the game. They fail more than they succeed.
Have you ever felt that way as a Christian? Have you ever felt like you were failing in your Christian life more often than you were doing the right thing? I certainly feel that way a lot. And many folks I talk with feel the same. It’s the thing many Christians struggle with the most.
So what do we do when we feel like we are failing in our walk with God? Don't we try to work harder to do what's right? We tell ourselves that we can do better and live better and we try on our own to clean up our lives.
Baseball players do that too when they're in a slump and not hitting well. Sometimes they forget the fundamentals of hitting like keeping their eyes on the ball. When their batting average drops, they try harder. They take extra batting practice or examine their swing on video with a hitting coach to try to see what they are doing wrong. And sometimes it works. They figure out their mistakes and correct them and they start hitting again and their batting average goes up.
But more often than not, they slip back into the old habits and don't keep the fundamentals of their swing right, and before you know it, they're back in a slump, not hitting very well.
We do that too as Christians when we get in a slump in our Christian walk. We slip from doing what we know is right. We take our eyes off what is important. And when we slip up, we try to work harder. We read our Bibles more or pray more for God’s forgiveness, or talk to other Christians to see if they can help us out of our rut.
That may help for a while, but then something happens and we slip back to doing what we know we shouldn't. And as that happens more and more, we get discouraged. We feel like we are the worst Christian in the world, and will never be able to be the kind of person God means for us to be.
If you've ever felt that way, I want to remind you of something this morning. Think about this for a minute. The greatest evangelist of the New Testament church, the Apostle Paul, did the same thing. He was in the very same boat we are. Paul said as much in his letter to the church at Rome. He said he knew what he ought to do, but many times he found himself not doing it. And what he knew he shouldn't do, he kept doing. Listen to his words.