Lights, camera, action.
My brother Mitchell jogged slowly out to assume his position on the pitcher's mound. 25,000 people stared at him from all angles as he threw his final warmup pitches. Millions glued their eyes to the television screen from couches and sports bars around the world.
For six and a third innings, Mitchell pitched his heart out. He gave everything he had and left it all on the field. Sadly, his tremendous effort was not enough to punch the Frogs' ticket to the National Championship series. Coastal Carolina forced a winner-take-all game.
Once the dust settled in Omaha last night, the rest of the world shifted their focus elsewhere. The grandstands emptied. Cameras switched off. Televisions tuned to other channels. Yet, the night continued for Mitchell and my family.
In the fight for belief, we needed to personally face defeat. Losing keeps us humble, especially in the national spotlight. It reminds us that we're human. Thank God it does. Without losses, winning would not be nearly as desirable. And yet, God uses both wins and losses for His glory.
Often quoted as a source of inspiration, I turned to Philippians 4 this morning. As I read the familiar text over again, I recognized how Paul addresses the glory God receives in our failure and brokenness just as much as the glory He receives in our success and prosperity:
"I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble."
Philippians 4:10-14, ESV
This truth wasn't as revealing in nature as it was tasteful. By this, I mean it wasn't something I hadn't learned before, but now I could taste the accents of this truth and sip on its undertones as it rang true for me.
As I've sat and sipped from this cup of truth today, I've learned more about the inquisitive nature of God, as it pertains to sports. We don't need to win ballgames and championships for God to be glorified. If we did, God would give them to us.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19, ESV
When we follow Jesus, we know God desires what's best for us (see Romans 8:28). With this in mind, we set expectations in areas of our life and expect God to fulfill areas we perceived to be good. And the source of many real frustrations we experience in the Christian life occurs when we face unmet expectations.
For this reason, it is incredibly frustrating when bad things happen to "good" people. Mitchell walks closely with the Lord and has used the gift of baseball and the platform it provides to glorify God. So, when he loses it frustrates me and my family (and him).
In the battle for belief, you can't help but wonder why God would bring you to this point only for you to face defeat. You might even ask, "Can't I do all things through Christ who strengthens me, God?" But sometimes, God has a different plan than we do. And ultimately, it's God's plan who prospers, not ours.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
It remains infinitely important for us to remain sober-minded, as this life offers us various highs and lows. The constant faithfulness of God reassures us of His undying love for us in every season of life. There's no greater love than the love of Christ, which defeated sin and death on a cross. And that love permeates time and circumstance promising never to leave or abandon us.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV
It is by God's grace alone we can see clearly through life's circumstances and remain sober-minded. This remains possible when we point to the cross of Christ, both in anguish and in prosperity.
I don't know exactly how God gloried in last night's defeat. But amidst this loss, I've already seen God use the platform He entrusted Mitchell with for His glory. Through personal conversations, text messages, and various tweets, my soul has been encouraged by the numerous people who have witnessed Mitchell faithfully steward this gift and submit before God both in victory and in defeat.
The game of baseball does not define Mitchell. In a previous post, he shared this truth himself:
When I take that ball, and I get ready to win the pitch at hand, understand that I wear the number thirty-three because of my king that has saved me by grace through faith in Him. It's my daily reminder that no matter how far I go in this game, no matter what injuries I face, no matter what my statistics say, I play for the glory of God. I play baseball, so that I can enjoy and know God more through this gift He has given me, and so that I can share the testimony God has given me through Jesus and His redeeming work in my life, one day at a time.
It's not about me. It's about Him. And let me tell you, there's immense freedom in that. Praise Jesus, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
May we pray for the patience to submit ourselves with eternal hope in the valleys; for the humility to combat pride and arrogance in the peaks; for the ability to exalt the name of Jesus always. Let us be reminded of God's faithful love for us, both in victory and defeat.
Through Jesus, we have the power to do what is good. And through Jesus alone, we expect an eternal reward, one much greater than mere temporal victories. As we have all things by Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus, let the trajectory of our faith lead us to do all things to His glory alone. Lord, give us the grace to repent and reposition ourselves when we fail to do so. May Christ be glorified always.