I grew up playing a lot of sports and one of my favorites was baseball. Whether it was rec league, high school, or college ball(briefly) you never called the game over in the first inning because there was a lot of game left to be played. Baseball is a game of perseverance. It is full of mistakes, recovering from those mistakes, and banding together with your team and believing that the 9th inning is coming. It is one of the only games in the world where you can hit a ball 2 out of 10 times and you are doing pretty good. If a quarterback had a passer rating of 20% he would be finding a new job. If a basketball player only made 2 out of 10 layups he ever attempted we would wonder if something had gone wrong. However, in baseball, if it is not the 9th inning then there is still hope no matter what the score looks like.
Not all of us have played or play sports, but we can all relate to the importance of perseverance. Maybe you have had to persevere through illness or disease. Maybe you had to persevere through school. Maybe you have had to persevere through emotional or even physical pain. Maybe you have found yourself in situations or circumstances that were not what you planned. These experiences all work together and make life, life. If we are all honest, sometimes life can feel burdensome and even hopeless and in other instances life has you feeling like it could not get any better.
As a church, we have been going through the epistles written to the Thessalonians. In almost every chapter, Paul mentions Christ’s return. He mentions the importance of persevering until He returns. Jesus has saved us from our sins: All of the ways we miss the mark, reject God, you could call them the “swing and a miss” moments, all the ways we “strike out”.
Jesus died for the moments where we don’t even want to “take the field” or “step into the batter’s box”. He didn’t just die to free us up to play this game called life, He died to give us real life, hope, and a future. The life that Jesus died and rose again to give us culminates in His return.
This is the 9th inning for us as believers. No matter what your week has held, no matter what tomorrow holds, whether it is poverty or prosperity we as Christians have the privilege, the honor, the opportunity to be “joyful in all circumstances” because we know Jesus is “batting clean up” and His batting average is perfect.
The Gospel makes us aware of our sin, lost or saved, it affords us the opportunity to recognize that we as human beings blow it all of the time. But, the Gospel does not just leave us there. The Gospel reminds us that Jesus is our “pinch hitter” when He returns all of our stats will be wiped clean and His perfect stats will replace them. This frees you and me up to be grateful in the face of adversity, or the mundane. This is why Paul writes so much to the Thessalonian church about Jesus’ return because there will be a final score someday and if you believe in Jesus Christ, then you are on the winning team.
I want to invite you to take a moment right now and read through this handful of verses from Paul to the Thessalonian church regarding Christ’s return (walk-off home run moment):
…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath… For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy!…And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you. May He make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen… For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words… For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing…– 1 Thessalonians overview
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Building Lives Centered on the Gospel,
Cody & Alex