In order to carry the analogy out in detail, we will examine the characters involved in the game of baseball, from the fans, to the players, to the coaching staff. Today, it’s the player. Several points need to be clear when looking at the player:
1. The player is a genuine believer in Jesus: There are many people who can seemingly play the game, but Jesus warns us that there are false prophets everywhere. Players are known by their fruit. Paul lists some of the fundamentals in his letter to the Galatians:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
2. The player practices his faith both offensively and defensively: A player is good on defense, as Paul says in Ephesians 6. Almost every aspect of the armor of God is a defensive item. To baseball-up the analogy, just think of Yadier Molina. The helmet of salvation, the chest-protector of righteousness, the belt of truth, the cleats of the gospel and the glove of faith. Regardless of the analogy (and the quasi-heretical manner in which it was just explained), the main point in Paul’s illustration is the reality of defensive preparation and protection against the enemy.
A player is also good offensively in the illustration given by Paul. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. The most fascinating thing about Albert Pujols is his radical commitment to excellence with the bat. I don’t know if it is true, but I’ve heard that he has a bat in every room of his house in order to always have one in his hands. I do know he spends many hours in the batting cage, reviewing video, and working with coaches and trainers to be the best he can be. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Hard work with the bat pays off at the plate. Are you working hard with the bat?
3. The player works with his team: For just as the team is one and has many players, and all the players on the team, though many, are one team, so it is with Christ. The great thing about team sports is that everybody plays a part in the team moving forward. While we are one body, with many parts, we work together, using our gifts to benefit the group. How are you working to benefit others on your team?
4. The player wants the ball: A disturbing practice among many evangelicals is the “sitting on my hands until Jesus comes back and takes me to the sweet by and by” practice. Players want the ball. They want to be in the game. You don’t have to guilt them into mission trips, serving in the nursery, discipleship training classes or Sunday School. Players want the ball. They want responsibility. They want to learn more and get better.