Practical Principals in Winning the Game
Baseball legend, Babe Ruth, hit 714 home runs in his 22 seasons as a major league player and was the home run king of his time, but that wasn’t what got him crowned the Sultan of Swat and the Great Bambino. Having returned to the dugout 1330 times without a hit gave Babe the equally distinctive title of strikeout king. Given the fact that Babe’s misses almost doubled his strolls around the bases, and that his home run record was topped by Hank Aaron in 1974 and again in 2007 by current record holder, Barry Bonds. What is it about this iconic figure that so many fans still identify him as the greatest to ever play the game? And what in the world might it have to do with spiritual warfare?
Make no mistake about it, Spiritual Warfare is not a game, far from it; but if you’re going to play – play to win. This is the idea Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where he writes,
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” ~ NLT.
Having established the church at Corinth near the end of his second missionary journey somewhere in the vicinity of AD 51-52, it was still pretty much in its infancy when he wrote this letter a few years later. In so many ways the patterns of behavior that had developed amongst the people were quite childish. Senseless disputes and divisions had created factions within the ranks that undermined the work of the cross begun there and threatened its growth and continuance. Satan had declared war on this fledgling church and this, the first of two recorded epistles to Corinth is Paul’s response to the enemy’s advances – Boot Camp for believers if you will.
Babe Ruth had a lot to say about baseball over the years. His career found many notable quotes left in the wake of having played the game quite successfully. There are many thoughts and expressions from the Great Bambino we can learn from and apply on a spiritual field where fastballs, curveballs, knuckleballs, slurves, and sliders, breaking balls, screwballs, changeups and splitters daily come at us unpredictably and at blinding rates of speed. I’ll call them Babe’s Rules.
Babe’s Rule #1
“Baseball is the greatest game in the world and deserves the best you can give it.”
Believer, being a spiritual warrior must have at its core total commitment. If you are not going to give the life of faith all you got, your absolute best, stay clear of the battlefield. Should the devil see you coming with anything less, he will be licking his chops and firing up the barbecue grill. Believe me, there is nothing much more scrumptious to him than a casual Christian. We would do well to remember that like a roaring lion, the devil is looking to devour his prey (1 Peter 5:8), and you might find it interesting to know this: The king of the jungle won’t usually make a sound when hunting – he doesn’t want to scare off his next meal; But when he comes across a herd of water buffalo, antelope or zebra casually going about their day grazing the fields. He will crouch down and creep slowly through the tall grass undetected. Once in striking range, he will let out a paralyzing roar scattering the unsuspecting herd to isolate a younger, weaker member – dinner served. Get the picture?
When we are introduced to the enemy in Genesis 3:1, the first word used to describe him is “ârûwm”, a Hebrew word meaning, “crafty” and is translated “subtle, shrewd, and cunning in other Bible versions. He is a sly old fox who has spent thousands of years in the war room studying human nature and he knows how to launch an effective assault hitting the target. He is an expert navigator knowing well the human terrain always flying beneath the radar. Thus, as Peter advises, we must be “vigilant” (1 Peter 5:8), keeping careful watch for crouching tigers, always on guard for the stalker of our souls never wanting to wind up on the floor saying, “I didn’t see it coming”
My friend, don’t get things wrong here, fighting the good fight doesn’t require greatness, you don’t have to be a Peter, Paul, James or John; but to give and do your absolute best is not optional. A well-developed one-on-one prayer life is essential, and a daily balanced diet of God’s word is critical. You may not know it, but every branch of the United States armed forces has a professional reading list. Given the magnitude of the war we fight as enlistees in the Lord’s army, God has given us 66 books, not merely for our reading pleasure, but to be studied, meditated on and committed to memory as much as you can.
Hosea 4:6 reads, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. It wasn’t that the people Hosea spoke too did not know God altogether, they had some knowledge but a little knowledge can be dangerous, a real recipe for disaster. When you find yourself thinking you know enough (as they must have), that’s arrogance, arrogance is pride, and “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” ~ Proverbs 16:18.
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NOTE: I want to give a shout out to my old friend, Johnny Long, who got me thinkin’ about the Babe as I wrote.