As any baseball fan or player knows, the curve ball is known to be that one pitch that if executed correctly, at the right time, can send a batter back to the dugout with a much-needed strikeout. To a batter whose skill at hitting curve balls isn’t perfected, they can be deadly at the plate. But having the skill to hit a curve ball starts well before the time to step up to the plate in a game. That skill begins with relentless hours of practice and preparation. That skill begins with recognizing the curve ball before it ever gets to you so that when it does, you know exactly how to react. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. Having this faith is step one.
Timing is Everything
A batter steps up to the plate, confident, determined, anxiously awaiting the pitch. The pitch comes but it’s a little outside so the batter holds off. “Ball”, the ump cries out. The batter stands up, steps out of the box and readjusts his grip then steps back in and takes his stance. Inside the batter is even more confident as he knows he did good holding off. The next pitch comes, fastball, but it’s low and in the dirt it goes. The batter holds off again, this time with a slight smirk. “Ball 2” the ump cries out. Now cocky and confident knowing he’s ahead, once again he steps back, readjusts, steps in and gets ready. The pitcher, now determined to throw a strike winds up and throws his best fastball with a little too much grip and it comes in low. The skilled and overconfident batter holds off again and the ump cries, “Ball 3”. Now the batter is at the peak of his confidence, the top of his game so he believes and confident he’s getting on base. The pitcher, now angry, steps back off the mound. The catcher calls time and visits the mound to calm the pitcher down, help him regain his composure. Now ready, the catcher returns and the batter takes his stance. With a deep breath and a confident air, the pitcher hurls the perfect fastball right down the middle, but the confident batter holds off. “Strike” the ump declares. The count is 3-1, still in favor of the batter. The batter backs out, shakes his head in an arrogant manner, steps back in and gets ready. The pitcher, now with a little confidence hurls another fastball hitting the outside corner. The batter swings but fouls it back. The ump signals strike 2. 3 balls and 2 strikes, a full count. Now the confidence is even between pitcher and batter. Before the game, the pitcher had read the stats on this batter and knew his weakness was the curve ball, and right about now, he’s got the batter right where he wants him. He winds up and throws the perfect curve ball. The batter at first believes it to be a fastball and begins his swing but at the last split-second notices the spin and break of the curve. Too late. The ump cries out “Strike 3”, and the batter hangs his head in defeat.
Curve Balls are Coming – Are You Ready?
Curve Balls are coming, and our enemy, Satan and his band of demons, knows exactly and precisely the right time to use them. Satan knows our every weakness, he studies us every day logging every detail of every event that causes us to give in to even the tiniest of sinful weakness. For some it’s that simple click of the mouse on a website we know we shouldn’t be on, for others it’s that donut we know we shouldn’t have, maybe a little lie or a slight loss of temper while in traffic. Whatever it is, Satan knows. But what Satan is really looking for more than anything, is that one time when we’re at our lowest point, when he can throw that one curve ball, that one weakness at us, that will cause us to turn away from God.
We have to know in our hearts and minds that trials and tribulations are coming. In the Bible, James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything“. Like the pitcher noted above, we have homework to do in preparing for those trials. The right preparation will have us not only ready to react, but to react correctly and take joy in doing so knowing that the test comes from God, and our continued faith through those trials produces perseverance and strength in us for the trials of satan that are sure to come.
Response to Trials is 90% Mental………….
Baseball hall of famer Lawrence Peter Berra, aka “Yogi” Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical“. The same goes for the trials of life. When trials come, the mental toll is often harder than the physical toll. Take for example the scare of a potential cancer diagnosis. Speak with anyone in this situation and you’ll likely hear the toll of the anxiety in awaiting test results is ever bit as harsh as the physical challenges of treatments, maybe worse. We could take the quote of Mr. Berra and change it to state, “The trials of life are 90% mental, the other half it physical”, and it would apply perfectly.
In the Bible, Deuteronomy 8:2 states, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. Here, God was humbling the Israelites and explains clearly that the 40 years in the wilderness was a test of their faith in Him and Him alone. While there are of course physical aspects to tests such as cancer, illness, injury and countless others, it is our mental preparedness through our faith in Jesus Christ that gets us through the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenge of the trial.
Practice, Practice, Practice – Prayer
In October 2019, the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees were tied at 4-4. On the mound for the Yankees was the faster pitcher ever to throw a ball in Major League Baseball history. Aroldis Chapman holds the MLB record for the fastest pitch ever thrown at 105.1. Just his presence on the mound is intimidating at 6’4″ and 212 lbs. With the game tied and a runner on 2nd base, up to bat came the “David” if you will of baseball, Jose Altuve. At 5′ 6″ tall and only 165 lbs, Jose Altuve, the smallest player in Major League Baseball was now facing the Goliath of the game with 2 outs already recorded, one of the biggest trials of his professional career. With 2 balls and 1 strike, the giant Chapman threw a high slider, a curve ball derivative, to the small Altuve. Altuve was prepared and put his whole body into his swing launching the ball out of the park and into history as his walk off home run sent the Yankees home with a loss and the Astros to the World Series.
As the smallest player in the game, Jose Altuve practices a lot. We can also practice a lot for the trials to come. Psalm 139:23 instructs us with a prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts“. Prayer is perhaps the most powerful practice we can take on to prepare us for the trials to come in life. Ask God for testing, and strength, through Him, to get through those tests. Continual testing of our faith builds that perseverance mentioned in James 1:2-4 and prepares us for any curve ball that comes our way, no matter how intimidating the pitcher of that curve ball may be.
Deuteronomy 31:6 reassures us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you”.