Baseball fans countdown the day until pitchers and catchers report like a kid impatiently marking off calendar days til Christmas. The teams arrive in Florida and Arizona as the nation grows weary of gray and gloom. Spring Training is the first hope of Spring.
Today begins the annual six week period of teaching, training, and repetitious fundamental drills. It seems almost silly for uber talented and well paid athletes to be reviewing the same fundamentals they learned in youth baseball.
Yet you watch the very best players focus on repeating proper fundamentals over and over. Superstars hit off a tee. Gold Glove fielders practice footwork repeatedly. Pitchers constantly repeat correct throwing motion. The message is clear. Talent is important but even the best can be derailed by forgotten or sloppy fundamentals.
Perhaps we should co-opt that idea of fundamental training for followers of Jesus. Today I am starting a movement for “Preachers and Christians” to report for Spring Training. For a few weeks we can forego theological nuances to focus on the fundamentals of faith.
We can do drills that reminds us who God says we are in Jesus.
I am a brand new creation.
A child of the living God.
All these gifts of grace are ironclad contractual deals because of Jesus and every single thing on that list happened at the moment we joined His team. Believing who God says He is, understanding that you have been changed because of Christ, and living out of those two fundamentals is a game changer that can weather the toughest season.
Next we could do some gratitude exercises. Gratitude resets the motivation to live for God and trust Him in the darkness. Philip Yancey reminds us why it makes perfect sense in his wonderful book What’s So Amazing about Grace?
“If we comprehend what Christ has done for us, then surely out of gratitude we will strive to live “worthy” of such great love. We will strive for holiness not to make God love us but because he already does.”
Another thing I love about Spring Training is the fresh start. Every team has hope as they enter the new season. What used to be true about the team doesn’t matter. Only what happens from Opening Day to the final pitch matters. Spring training means all things baseball are a new creation.The same is true for followers of Christ. What used to be true of me has changed.
I have had some bad seasons during my career as a follower of Jesus. Some pretty ugly slumps. That doesn’t matter if I focus on Christ in this next season of my life. There can be freshness in the journey and real joy and freedom. I can realize that I am a child of God and be grateful that I can call Him Father. I can believe that hope for the future is real. I can understand that I must (by His grace and the power of the Spirit) be a better teammate. I should not expect my team to be perfect. I am pretty sure they will boot some easy chances and strikeout in some key situations. But I will trust God to help me love them and encourage them because we are on the same team known simply as the Body of Christ. Paul gave us a good reason for hope in his letter to the Roman Church. It also fits into the discipline required to survive the marathon of a baseball season.
And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5, NLT)
The magic of a fresh start happens once a year in baseball. It can happen everyday for a follower of Jesus.
“Preachers and Christians” report! It is time to remember the fundamentals and the hope of what Jesus has done.
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