At Bat

Part 3 of a 12 part devotion of Psalm 30

Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers) at bat

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Psalm 30:3

How many of us follow failing sports teams? My favorite baseball team is the Milwaukee Brewers, established in 1969, a mere three years after the Braves abandoned the city in favor of Atlanta.  The Brewers have now played baseball in Milwaukee for 50 seasons, 29 in the American League, and the rest in the National League.  Of those 50 seasons, 30 were under 0.500, which means they lost more games than they won in those seasons.  Their best season was in 1982 when they went to the World Series and the worst was in 2002 when they only managed to win 52 games that season.  Overall, The Milwaukee Brewers have won 3,913 games in those 50 years and have lost 4,217. Which begs the question, if my favorite team tends to lose more than they win, why do I enjoy watching them?

The answer is I don’t watch because of statistical probability.  I watch it because of the potential! When a player stands in the batter box, they have the possibility of a strikeout to a home run and everything in between.  The batter box is unique due to the constant variables in motion concerning the pitcher, catcher, batter, and even the umpire.  Every at-bat creates a new and unpredictable event that moves the game along, both for better or worse, to its final conclusion.  

Just as every at-bat determines the outcome of the game, every game determines the outcome of a season.  For the individual players, every season determines the overall career and will decide if they are destined for the hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. 

Baseball is a game of statistics, where every activity is measured, analyzed, and compared to others on your team, league, or even in the past. Every paper in the country will post the standings for your team as compared to every other team playing. 

Our teams rise and fall in the standings but noting is decided until all the regular season games are completed.  Standings are meaningless April – September.  All that matters is where your team is in October.  I like to tell people now that my beloved Brewers are in first place this season.  Of course, the season hasn’t started yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic but in my mind, they haven’t lost a game yet so they are in FIRST PLACE!

SHEOL

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sheol is an old Hebrew word that is considered to be the home of the dead wicked, while paradise is the home of the dead righteous until the Last Judgement. Through much of the Old Testament period, it was believed that everything went to Sheol when it died, whether human or animal, righteous or wicked. No one could avoid Sheol, which was thought to be down in the lowest parts of the earth. The opposite of Sheol is Paradise, which Jesus told the thief on the cross would go after he died, not because of his actions on earth but due to his confession that Jesus is the messiah and the Son of God!

Unlike this world, Sheol is devoid of love, hate, envy, work, thought, knowledge, and wisdom. Descriptions of this underworld are bleak: There is no light, no remembrance, no praise of God — in fact, no sound at all. Its inhabitants are weak, trembling shades who can never hope to escape from its gates. Sheol is like a ravenous beast that swallows the living without being sated. Some thought the dead were cut off from God while others believed that God’s presence reached even to Sheol. In the Old Testament, people’s actions determined where they went after death, but after Jesus’s sacrifice and reconciliation, many of the “righteous” souls were released and entered Paradise or what we now refer to as heaven.

Jesus tells of Sheol in his parable found in Luke 16:19-31 commonly referred to Lazarus and the rich man. In this earthly story with a heavenly meaning, a rich man dies and enters Sheol, where he suffers greatly.  As part of his suffering, he is able to view paradise in which he sees a simple beggar named Lazarus (not the same Lazarus that Jesus raised from the dead in Bethany in John 11).  He literally sees Lazarus being comforted by the great patriarch of faith, Abraham.  The rich man asks that Lazarus be sent down to give him some water and to warn the man’s family of his (and theirs) fate.  The request is denied.

Of course, we don’t have to die in order to be brought down.  Life is a constant journey between valleys and mountaintop moments in our lives.  From the birth of a child to the death of a loved one, we are on a constant roller coaster of success and failure, reward and loss, joy and despair.  The verse rejoices over the fact that God has brought us up from that dark place where we have found ourselves, either by our own actions or through no fault of our own.  Notice that the verse doesn’t say “IF” as in if you happen to find yourself in a low place.  Low valleys are given when we journey through our lives.  Like in baseball, even the greatest players of all time have gone through a slump or two in their careers.

$86,400

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

In Lamentations 3:22-23  (ESV), the writer praises God by stating The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Going back to baseball, that means every day is a new at-bat.  We have a chance of doing something amazing or messing up on a daily basis.  The results of yesterday are gone and hope is restored every time we step up to the plate.

God restores us daily. Imagine if your bank account gets a deposit of $86,400 every single morning.  There is nothing you have done to earn that money and you know that you will receive that same amount every single day of your life. Now, It is totally up to you what you do with the money. You can spend it on yourself,  spend it on others, or give it away.  The only thing you cannot do is save it.  Every dollar that is not spent that day disappears at the end of the day.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?

Well, the good news is that you already have that deal! Every day we get 86,400 seconds. That time is deposited to us to either spend on ourselves or give it away in the service of others.  No matter what we chose to do with our time yesterday, today is new and brimming with possibilities.

When we are restored, we a renewed.  We are put back into use. We are reset back to the factory settings.  We are then expected to go out there and perform to the best of our ability, to hit a home run and win the game for our team.  Somedays we ding one out over the center-field wall for the home run or lop one out to right-field for a base hit. Somedays we strike out or fly out to left.  But no matter what our last at-bat brought, we look forward to the next one and a chance to shine like the future Hall of Famer we know we are. In Baseball, every season is a fresh start, and statistics for both the team and the individual players start over.  In Christ, we get a new start daily, hourly, every minute, and every second. Unlike baseball, God does not keep track of our statistics for at-bats, the game, or overall career! He restores me to me factory default and sets me upright, with new mercies every morning.

The Pit

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Have you ever spent time in a pit?  I don’t mean a literal one, although I am sure that is a fascinating story.  I am talking about the emotional and spiritual kind, what David in Psalm 23 calls “the valley of the shadow of death”  I know that you have.  We all spent time in the gutter, experiencing those dark days where every possible choice just seems to be pointless. The psalmist refers to this as the pit.  Pits are designed for two things.  The first is that it is extremely easy to enter one.  Animals (and people) accidentally fall into them when they least expect it.  No one ever willingly enters one.  The second thing about pits is that they are extremely difficult to escape on your own.  The person trapped cannot free themself and must ask for assistance to be resued.  If they don’t cry for help, they will remain trapped.

Everyone in the pit is not saved, simply because they have not asked to be.  They have accepted that being stuck in a pit is their “new norm” and are either too proud or ashamed to ask to be freed.  Some feel like they deserve to be in the pit, due to past decisions. Some are even unaware that they are in a pit, thinking that this is the best life can offer.

Show me someone who is happy all the time and I will show you someone with excellent prescription drug coverage!

Palzewism # 98

The good news is that people are rescued every day and that rescue only comes from one direction, above.  The only way to get out of a pit is for someone to pull you up.  God pulls people out of our pits, our valleys.  All we have to do is look up and ask him!

In history, there is only one person that raised himself from a pit that he chose to enter.  Jesus, being true God and true man, willingly laid down his life and enter the pit.  Three days later, he was resurrected by the power of God (Father, Son, and Spirit) and removed himself from the pit. Jesus was dead and then was restored to his former heavenly position as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Now that is what I call a winning season!


Questions

  1. If your life is like a baseball game, which “at bats” do you track more – the home runs or the strikeouts?
  2. How did you spend your 86,400 today?
  3. Where do you consider yourself on life’s curve? Are you in a valley, on a mountaintop, or somewhere in between? Which way are you headed?
  4. When have you ever been restored or set back to the factory default?
  5. How can you show others about their default setting in a way that points them to the cross and the empty tomb?

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, We thank you for your mercies that are fresh every morning, which allows us to be restored and useful again.  Help us to be ever mindful of your great gifts of time, treasure, and talents and help us to seek ways in which we can use them to further your kingdom instead of wasting them in a selfish pursuit of our own satisfaction.  In your name, we pray.  Amen.


I thank you for reading my blog and look forward to any comments or criticism of what I have discussed.

If these words have impacted you, please feel free to share them by email or any social media platform.
You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing!”, my book, is available for purchase here.

1 thought on “At Bat

  1. Well done. Enjoyed your message and believe you show how much you really have to share toward others. How much God has dealt with you, helped you develop a true gift with life and words. I encourage (give heart) you; indeed, an author I will enjoy following.

    Liked by 1 person

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