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Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Nine Pitchers and Eleven Quarterbacks

These days more than ever kids are encouraged to play sports at a young age!  Playing sports can be a good experience as it promotes competition, teamwork, and friendship!  When I was a kid it was all about Little League Baseball!  Now kids are encouraged to start early in soccer, basketball, tennis, baseball, golf, volleyball and the list keeps going!

If you have kids that are or have participated in sports you have probably watched the games pretty closely.  We as parents often have a tendency to watch our own kids even more than the game!  For those who watch the games objectively there are several familiar characteristics you will notice.  In soccer for instance younger kids tend to be ball followers.  It’s like a swarm of insects migrating to the ball as it is kicked around in all directions.  It is a cluster of bodies all in limited space with the ball leading the way.  Basketball has the same dynamics. When younger kids play,  you will see dribbling and more dribbling.  When the dribbling stops the shooting starts.   If a shot cannot be negotiated, teammates come racing over to give a helping hand and start encouraging the dreaded one foot backwards shovel pass.  The sequence begins again, more dribbling and more scrambles to reach the player with the ball once the dribbling stops. The result nets a glob of players in close vicinity working apart!

A good friend and I were watching a recent football bowl game.  Instead of watching the ball we were trying to focus  on the other parts of the game.  Very rarely in a sport like football are we trained to watch anything but the ball.  However, when we focused on the offensive line for instance, we saw a different game!  The only time these players normally get noticed is when they don’t do their job!  We noted their blocking techniques and saw intensity on that line that reminded us of a war!   Seeing how linemen hold or come up with ways to keep their opponent from getting close to their quarterback was amazing!  If you are like us, it doesn’t take long until you start focusing on the ball again.  Line play is interesting but it is not the glamorous part of football.

Very rarely do you see a player who could play every position in a sport.  In baseball there are only a handful of players who have!  Bert Campanaris comes to mind.  One game he played every position moving around the diamond to begin each inning.  He even took a turn at pitching!  Just the fact that he was versatile enough to accomplish such a feat while not completely making a fool of himself was amazing!  When players have played every position in a game it was always a publicity stunt.  It was out of boredom after a long season, and to give the fans something to talk about! Never did this gimmick make the team better!

In the past I have had a measuring stick for the value of a player.  I would ask myself this question. If every player on the team was that particular player, how good would the team be?  The players scoring highest on “my test” would be the ones who displayed skills in all areas of the game and had the physical attributes also. A select few superstars in the NBA are tall, can handle the ball efficiently,  pass, and score in a variety of ways!  To those few, a team of that individual might have a chance to be successful!  Basketball is probably the easiest sport to score high on my test.  Take LeBron James for instance.  Five LeBrons would make an awesome team!  Kevin Durant scores high too on my test!  Even in basketball however, with only five players allowed on the court at one time, most players would fail miserably on my scale.  A team of John Stocktons for instance would make a terrible team.  John Stockton is a hall of fame player, and was a great point guard!  However, he was only 6 foot 1.  A team of  Stocktons would be very weak in one essential area… Defense!  This team would be pathetic in rebounding and shot blocking.  Foes would score at will by throwing the ball into the post against John Stockton the center.  On the offensive end going up against taller stronger players would surely limit team Stocktons success.  Forget about an offensive rebound or second chance points.!  It would be one shot and done with a strong possibility that the one shot would be blocked!

In football and baseball my standard leans on the edge of ridiculous! Justin Verlander won the MVP and the Cy Young awards this past season!  He was the best starting pitcher in baseball! Yet, who could imagine having 9 Justin Verlanders in  a lineup?  Although Verlander is a great athlete he wouldn’t perform at other positions nearly as well as players who have trained extensively for those roles. An all Verlander team would have eight below average defensive players! On the offensive side,  nine Verlanders coming to bat would be very anemic in run production!

Tom Brady is a great quarterback!  Year after year he leads his team to playoff and Super Bowl contention.  Yet, as good a quarterback as Brady is, a team of Tom Bradys would be a disaster.  Imagine five Tom Bradys on the offensive line going against 300 pound pass rushers! The quarterback Tom Brady would not have a chance!

Years ago Henry Ford revolutionized American industry with the assembly line.  The concept was simply that everyone was a specialist.  Giving each person a specific job. he had them do that function over and over.  Eventually workers got so good and fast at their job that they could almost perform it in their sleep!  The result was a time efficient quality product that customers loved!   Since they produced their cars so efficiently they were able to keep the price of their new cars affordable for the average person! It was the ultimate idea of teamwork and it made Ford the leader in the automobile industry for years!!  Production and sales increased at an enormous rate! The assembly line became a model that all of their competitors copied!

Sometimes as Christians we are ball chasers.  We play as individuals working apart.  We want to chase the current “hot leader” concerning ourselves only with the question… Am I getting fed? Too often we are spiritually out of shape because all we want to do is eat.  A person who only eats and fails to exercise ends up very unhealthy.  We must understand that faith without works is dead!  The “spiritual food” needs to produce “spiritual energy”!  Many on the “Christian Team” do little to nothing. When our production on the spiritual assembly line plummets, we have a tendency to discourage the worker next to us so our lack of effort and desire isn’t as noticeable.  We envy a co-workers talents instead of encouraging them as a good teammate would.  We lose focus thinking our assigned job is meaningless.  When “the quarterback” gets all of the credit we feel cheated. We desire attention and accolades for the job we do!  We get unsatisfied and through our discontentment our work isn’t completed.  Ninety percent of work  in most churches today is done by ten percent of the members or less!  How well would a football team do if only ten percent of the players did their job? The mission you are supposed to accomplish in life can only be done by you!  You have been given special unique qualities that nobody else in the world has. There is nobody exactly like you!   Tom Brady would be a complete failure without his offensive line?   By the same token the “Christian Team” falters when members fail to do the jobs they are called to do!  Not trying to be “versatile” and do everything, but simply by doing their individual task to help the team as a whole!

The Apostle Paul talks about this same concept in I Corinthians chapter 12.  Verse 12 says  the body has many parts, and yet it is one body.  If the foot should say I am not a hand so therefore I am not part of the body, it would not cease to be part of the body.  If the ear says I am not an eye therefore I am not part of the body it would not cease to be a part.  Then he goes on to say if the whole body was an eye where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body was an ear where would we get the sense of smell? He follows that by adding “the eye cannot say to the hand I don’t need you and the head cannot say to the feet I don’t need you!”  Translated into my example, Verlander cannot say to Miguel Cabrera (his power hitting teammate), I don’t need you or Tom Brady cannot say to his offensive line or running backs I don’t need you!  The fact of the matter is they are in total need of each other!  Their success depends  not only on their own skills, but the different skills of all of their less celebrated teammates.

Just as everything needs to work in unison with teams, production, and the body we must also realize that within us everything must work in harmony also!  We are all managers of ourselves and we need to make sure that “our players” are working together in the most efficient manner! In a football sense, we need to make sure that our offensive lineman has not moved over to play the quarterback position.  Likewise, the quarterback better not  be blocking on the line!  In a spiritual sense this situation, though it seems strange in the physical world, happens all of the time.

To help clarify this thought the Lord gave me a poem called “The Trio”.  By showing me an earthly management problem, I have come to understand how God sees the spiritual situation we all face. Trying to get a trio of singers to harmonize together as a team is something I can relate to! The goal  is a sweet, dynamic, pure, holy song reflecting Christs love within us!  It’s achieved through sacrifice, practice, love, and constantly listening and obeying Jesus our coach! When this cohesiveness and unity becomes a reality in our spirit the result is a perfect harmony in our life!  Our spiritual “assembly line” begins producing  fruit and then much more fruit!

Coming up next  “The Trio

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