“Are you willing to give up something so that the whole team can win?”
Baseball is America’s favorite past time. As a nation, we drop millions annually to watch this complex game with simple equipment, in which men show off their superior skill and baseball technique. Not to mention their strength. The best part of any game is the high line-drive that makes it far out into the outfield, or better yet, over the fence, bases loaded. Four runners make it home and the team is ecstatic! Every batter wants to be that guy whose stats reflect high RBIs and homeruns. That guy’s a hero, right?!
I’ve never actually played baseball as an organized sport (I play it in a very unorganized way), but I do enjoy watching it. I have watched my kids play recreationally, and in little league, there’s not much strategizing going on. The coach goes as far as to put his best pitcher on the mound and intersperses his strongest hitters among his weaker ones, so that every inning has a few points in it, but that’s about as far as they go to figure out how to win. The chips just kinda fall where they may. But in the major leagues, where the stakes are much higher, there’s a lot of strategizing going on. Every team longs for a moment like this, and if all goes as planned, it happens and the crowd goes wild. The suspense builds and explodes in one very loud crack of the bat. It’s incredible!
What’s less incredible, I’m sure, is being the guy in the line-up whose coach looks him in the eye and says, “Just a bunt. That’s all we need from you. Bunt it and get to first. We’ll get you home.” Talk about anticlimactic! That guy practiced just as long and as hard as everyone else out there, has the same dream of being the guy hoisted above the crowd that’s chanting his name, and yet he’s asked to restrain himself and withhold his full strength in order to benefit the team in a much bigger way. He’s the guy whose going to first, who’ll lead the others who are loading the bases. He won’t be remembered as the one who championed the game. No one really understands what he gave up, and probably, not many care either. “Are you willing to give up something so that the whole team can win?”
Sometimes, in service to God, we are asked the same question. There are many times in life we are asked to become less than we see ourselves as capable of, to restrain ourselves for the Glory of God. It’s not a very popular truth, but it’s truth nonetheless. And sometimes, we share in the glory of the victory and sometimes we do not. Some never tasted the fruits of their labor in this life. They submitted in obedience, gave up their will in order to do God’s will, and were never praised for their work. No one chanted their names. Look at Moses. Gave up the Egyptian throne to lead cranky millions through the wilderness for forty years. It was a thankless job wrought with inner suffering and physical discomfort. And in the end, he didn’t even get to lead them into the land he’d been looking forward to for forty years. His reward was only in heaven. Another couple men: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and many other prophets. They were completely unpopular with men and instead of living in luxury because of their service to God, they lived in mud pits and ate dung. Yep, men called by God who did not have the luxury of a nice, quiet life in the suburbs. They were fools for Him. Everyone hated them because of their service to God, and their reward? Only in heaven.
If that’s not enough, let Jesus be the example. Jesus was the promised one, and everyone could sense it. Talk about anticlimactic, though! He was God’s son, and the equivalent of a vagabond. “The son of God has no place to lay his head.” He paid his taxes with money he found in a fish’s mouth. He didn’t have a savings account and Florida was not his summer getaway. His calling did not include a good-sized house with a maid and in-ground pool. God’s will for Jesus was not physical comfort. It wasn’t even praise and adoration. The same people who chanted his name one day killed him a few later. Some people loved him, some hated him and some who loved him still didn’t fully commit to him. He was not famous. If anything, he was infamous in the eyes of most. He said things that were foolish, like, “You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” And he didn’t qualify that, he commanded that those who had ears to hear be able to understand. He left the Holy Spirit to do the work assigned to him, and sometimes, this put Jesus in a place of vulnerability among the crowd. How uncomfortable! And just when Peter thought Jesus was going to rise up and take his rightful place as King, Jesus said he was getting ready to be killed! Jesus couldn’t even live up to his full potential in the eyes of his followers! They were disillusioned and disappointed. But Jesus was still completely within the will of God. And the will of God hurt him. But it was a temporary agony, though it may have seemed endless at the time. “Are you willing to give up something so that the whole team can win?” Jesus said yes, and gave up his life. Gave up a momentary, fickle sort of glory so that he could be obedient unto death on the cross. And in that one selfless act, secured a victory for us all. He gave up his life so that the whole team could win!
I wonder, though, what this question means for us today? What is the will of God for my life and what will it require of me? Will it require my comfort? My servitude? My submission? My own idea of success? The admiration of others? Are these things that God will allow me to have, or ask me to give up in obedience to His strategies that guarantee that the whole team will win? Lord, help me to submit to You in whatever you ask me to do. Help me to put You first and myself last. Help me to be the kind of team player that You need me to be so that You can redeem many others back to you. Thanks for allowing me to be on Your team! Amen!