About this time of the year across the United States, baseball fans hear the words they have been waiting for since the end of baseball season in late October. “Pitchers and catchers report,” will resound in the ears of baseball fans, marking the beginning of a new baseball season. What this refers to is not actually the first game of the season, but the beginning of the pre-season practices called “Spring training.” The pitchers and catchers report for spring training some time before the rest of the players do, but when the pitchers and catchers report, it is baseball time again.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Spring training is both interesting and important, even though it is not actually part of the baseball season. It is really just an extended time of practice. As much as anything, it is a time to work on the fundamentals of the game. Guys who are superstars in the game will spend hours doing the exact same thing they did when they played little league baseball at nine years old. They will spend time doing the basic practices, like fielding ground balls, throwing to right base, hitting the cut-off man, catching pop flies, and taking batting practice, including how to bunt.
Every year, the greatest baseball players in the world will spend an extended time of practice simply working on the same basic skills of the game they have worked on every year since they first played. Kids playing little league and the New York Yankees practice fundamentals, because the fundamentals are critical to success at every level of the game.
There is a very real parallel in our spiritual lives. There are certain things we know are important, and they are practices we have done since we first became Christians. We are constantly reminded by preachers and teachers that spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, and service are critical to our continued growth as Christians, and even our ability to live a life worthy of the Name of Christ. The fundamental spiritual disciplines are important.
Likewise, there are fundamental Biblical truths also crucial. Belief in the veracity of the scripture, the virgin birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus are among the fundamental truths critical for a vibrant, growing faith. We must not stray from the fundamentals if we want to excel in our Christian discipleship.
ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Interestingly enough, even though great emphasis is placed on the fundamentals in baseball, the most talented ball players may get sloppy in their execution of the fundamentals of the game. This keeps them from maximizing their abilities and limits the development of their natural talents. It can also cost a team some victories during the regular season.
This, too, has a spiritual parallel. When we grow lazy in our spiritual disciplines, or begin to see certain Biblical truths as unnecessary, inconvenient, and unimportant, we will grow dull in our faith and ineffective in our witness. Jesus said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The basic fundamental truths of the Bible, and the simple fundamental spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, etc., are easy for us to give lip service to, but not incorporate in to our daily lives. Whenever, and to whatever extent this happens, our discipleship suffers and our spiritual vitality and growth is stunted.
Spring training is important in baseball because the fundamentals matter. The fundamentals of our spiritual lives matter, too. Let’s not neglect our spiritual training in the all-important fundamentals of Christian life