On February 14 my heart will be filled with love. The smells, the sounds, the anticipation of things marvelous to come will fill the air. I know it is Valentine’s Day, but this year it is also the day pitchers, and catchers report to spring training for the Cleveland Indians.
With hopes my wife never reads the above paragraph allow me to explain. The Indians and the old Cleveland Stadium hold so many memories for me. The largest took place in the stands. On August 12, 1978, I asked Julie to marry me while we sat in the upper deck right behind home plate – my favorite seats; with my favorite girl; watching my favorite team. The day was not perfect – the Indians lost to Texas 6-1. Oh yeah, Julie did say, “Yes.” I had asked her several times, always receiving a “no,” but that is another story.
OK, enough of my memories.
One of the marvels to spring training is that the best players in the world will practice fielding ground balls, catching flies, hitting, bunting, sliding into a base – all those things they have been doing since childhood. Those in the Major Leagues play baseball better than all others on the planet, yet, they take the time to hone their skills.
As a minister I am often asked, “How can I be a better Christian?”
My immediate response is, “How are you doing with the basics?”
Just as baseball players go to spring training to drill in the fundamentals of baseball, Christians need to be proficient in the fundamentals of Christianity.
In any craft, one must be proficient with the skills to succeed. A carpenter, for example, needs to be skilled with a hammer, a screwdriver, a drill, a saw, and the other tools of the trade to be successful. Our carpenter most likely beat stuff with a hammer as a child. His first nails were probably all crooked, but as time progressed, bent nails became a rarity. The more he did it, the better he became.
If you want to be a “better Christian” how often do you study the Scripture, attend church, pray, or witness to the unsaved? You cannot get better at anything without doing it. You cannot become a better Christian without practicing Christianity. Being a Christian is far more than reading the Bible, praying, and so on, but once someone becomes a Christian becoming proficient in those things will cause you to grow in your usefulness to God.
To be a “better Christian” one must first be a Christian. A Christian is anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of their salvation. A Christian does not have eternal life because of the things we do, but because of Christ shedding His blood as payment for our sins. A person places their faith in that, and God grants salvation (John 1:12, 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9-10).
Once a Christian, God begins to work on our spiritual growth. Here is where the fundamentals come in.
Studying the Scripture – The Bible never tells us to read it, but it does say to study it (2 Timothy 2:15). Reading is like panning for gold. A few nuggets will come down steam enough to add some value, but to study is like digging that gold mine and hitting the mother load. By studying you will do things like comparing one passage with another, following one word throughout the scripture, doing the math through the early genealogies discovering that Noah’s children died near the time Issac was born.
Prayer – Every ballplayer needs to communicate with the manager. From pregame talks to on-field instructions and private sessions by a team’s manager, so is prayer for the Christian. The study mentioned above and prayer here is how we communicate with God.
Attending Church – “I can worship God just as well at home as I can at church.” I have only heard that from people who try to make their absence from church a pious thing. We are to be worshiping God at all times within everything we do. Therefore, we should be worshiping God just as well at home as at church anyway. A deeper understanding of the Scriptures can come from the preaching and teaching, we can grow relationships as we fellowship with fellow believers, and we can serve in the work of the ministry. Never attending, or attending church haphazardly will not help anyone become a “better Christian.”
Witnessing to the Unsaved – God does command us to do this, and yes, He commands us to do a lot of things, but this is fundamental because as the love for Christ overflows our hearts, His love should flow from our lips (Matthew 12:34). Telling someone about Christ displays our love for them and Christ. Listen to what people say – we all talk about what we love. How much can you love Him if you never talk about Him?
If you want to be a better Christian, it is time to attend spring training.
Preacher Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County Indiana. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Preacher Johnson is available for revivals, prophecy conferences, and other speaking. Sermons and archived Preacher’s Points can be found at www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com.