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Preventing a Sloppy Finish

It’s normally feast or famine for our church softball team. It seems like we’re either exploding with hit after hit or we’re slogging along rather weakly in a team-wide batting slump. Well, in last night’s game, we managed to do both. At the end of the first inning we had batted around almost twice and scored ten runs. Not bad for one inning! The second inning we added four more runs giving us a hefty 14-1 lead. Sit back, relax, and throw away the key, baby, because we had this game locked up…or so we thought.

Sure enough, the transition from feast to famine got us again. Our hitting dried up. We stranded runners on base. We got sloppy in the field and in the batter’s box. No problem though, right? We had a nice cushy lead didn’t we? Well, over the next four innings, our opponents sliced our lead to only one run. In the sixth and final inning, we had finally snapped back to reality and only cradled an 18-17 lead. Though we couldn’t figure out exactly how this happened, we knew we had to get one more out to secure our victory. They had runners on second and third base. The next batter sent a fly ball in my direction. I called several times loud and clear, “Mine, I’ve got it!” but the right fielder crossed a few inches in front of me to make the play. The ball hit his glove and ricocheted off. I dove to reach with my bare hands, and it brushed my finger tips and hit the ground with a thud. Two runs scored, and the umpire called “Ballgame!” What a heartbreaker!

We shined the first two innings. We thought we could do no wrong. We thought we were invincible. What went wrong? I’ll tell you what went wrong. We got sloppy and complacent. On the drive home, while pouting about how we had gone from an explosive start to a sloppy finish, Father brought a verse from His Word to my mind which says “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Uh oh! I know God, and He wasn’t just talking about sports. He was talking something much more important: my spiritual life.

Many of us have experienced strong innings in our Christian life. However, no matter how much enthusiasm, sincerity, and excitement we feel, we must keep running with our eyes on the prize. No matter how good we feel about ourselves, about how our life is going, and about how well we seem to stack up spiritually, we can’t forget that what makes us strong is not our own determination to stay committed to the race. No, what gives us longevity is Christ within us. He empowers us to run the marathon, to complete every inning of our life successfully. Just as sloppiness and complacency can cause a team to blow a big lead late in the game, they can gradually cause Christians to believe that we are the reason for our own spiritual success, not God.

Dr. Bill Gillham often says, “The Christian life is not hard to live; it’s impossible to live.” In fact the only way to live the Christian life is by admitting that you can’t live it, and then trusting the indwelling presence of Christ within you to live it for you. Any other way is just plain sloppy. In doing so, you may play well for a few innings, but you can’t sustain that your entire life and experience the true freedom that God intends for you. So, keep running for the prize and don’t quit trusting Christ for every step along the way…and your finish won’t be sloppy.

Andy Knight

About the Author

Andy is the user interface designer for YouVersion, the Bible App. He has a passion for sharing God's story of grace and freedom through the internet. Andy lives in Roswell, GA, with his wife and three sons. You can follow him on Twitter at @andyknight.