Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Extra Innings

Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what
God wants you to do.

-- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

If you’re a baseball fan—especially a fan of old school baseball—then you’re probably familiar with Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.

Nicknamed Iron Man, Gehrig was a outstanding player who combined power with average. When his career was cut short in 1939 by the fatal disease that would eventually carry his name, Gehrig had hit nearly 500 home runs, driven in almost 2,000 RBIs and racked up a .340 batting average. But in spite of these impressive numbers, the New York Yankee first baseman is perhaps best known for his streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. It took decades before Baltimore Oriole legend Cal Ripkin, Jr., finally eclipsed this remarkable feat.

Needless to say, Gehrig probably played an inning or two while hurt, sick or even exhausted. But he carried on for the good of his team. And his dedication, selflessness and love of the game sustained him for 16 seasons while leading the Yankees to victory after victory. He succeeded in baseball because he had the strength to go the extra innings. And it’s in much the same way that God’s grace sustains every Christ-follower throughout their long journeys of faith.

A misconception among some Believers is that God only bestows His grace the moment they give their lives to Jesus. And after that—they reason—He steps back into the cosmos to watch in silence. But the Bible tells us that God doesn’t leave us on our own. Just as our lives as Christ-followers are marked by twists and hairpin turns along an often rugged path, God continues to spread His grace to us all along the way. And it’s a good thing. Because from time to time, we’ll all need spiritual renewal as we grow in what it means to walk in Jesus’ steps. Even the apostles—the ones who had personally witnessed Christ’s life-changing miracles—asked the Lord to increase their faith. So we’re in good company.

After abandoning their livelihoods and following Jesus for three years, the apostles were both physically and spiritually drained. And when their Master was arrested, tried and crucified, they scattered in fear for their lives—just as Jesus had predicted. But they would soon get new life the night Jesus reappeared to them. John the Apostle described the scene this way:
In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples had met together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he showed them his hands and his side, and when they saw the Lord the disciples were overjoyed. Jesus said to them again, "Yes, peace be with you! Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you."
These early Christ-followers could now continue with their world-changing mission. What’s more, they had renewed confidence. And not in themselves—but in God alone. It was through Him that they had the faith to both accomplish and endure.

Like a weary baseball team tapping into their talent and willpower to finally clinch the World Series, Christ-followers depend on a special power to get them through those difficult extra innings of life. We know it to be God’s sustaining grace, made possible through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. And if you’ll bear with a final baseball analogy, it’s the power that guarantees we’ll one day be safe at home.

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