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In The Dugout

He said to him a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (John 21: 17)

Several years ago, I coached my son’s Little League Baseball team in the championship of an all-star tournament. My son and I, being very competitive people, were very much engulfed in the tournament. We knew all the teams playing, and the best players on each team. Each night when we would get home from the round of games, we would sit for hours talking and strategizing about what we needed to do to win the games that were scheduled the next day. As it was, we made it all the way to the championship game. The day of the game came and it was the only thing on our minds. Although this was Little League Baseball, it was the most important thing in our lives at that moment. We just had to win. I remember sitting in the dug-out before the game, nervously going over the line-ups for both teams, and you could cut the tension like a knife. My players were focused and ready to win.

Well, that is the way I like to remember it. The truth is that it wasn’t this way at all. The truth is, most of my players didn’t really care about the results of the game. In one corner of the dugout, some players were in a deep conversation that concerned the flavor of bubble gum they had just purchased from the concession stand. In another corner, there were players attempting to throw a dead bee down another player’s jersey. And then the worst of all...I actually overheard one of my players ask another player that “if we win today, does that mean we would be in the championship tomorrow.” I thought to myself, how could one of my own players not know that he was already about to play in the championship game…today! He doesn’t even know what game we are about to play! Doesn’t he know we have to win today, that there is no tomorrow!

We live in a result-oriented society. In our society, we want results—we want positive results. If you don’t believe this, just think of the first question one generally asks a young child when they become aware that the child recently played in a sporting event. The question asked is “How did you do?” Most children, because they have grown up in our result-oriented society, respond either “We won” or “We lost.” The message communicated is clear; results are what matter, and the results should be winning results. This idea creates tremendous pressure and in many ways can damage people when they equate their self-worth with results. Pastors can sometimes also be guilty of this. When pastors get together, one of the first questions asked is “What is your church’s average worship attendance.” You see, the perception is that the results are what matter, and numbers are the indicator of whether or not a pastor is effective.

In our lives of faith there is only one thing Jesus wants to know. It is not what your results are, if you’ve won, or what you accomplished, or how many people you have in your church? The only question Jesus asks is the same question Jesus asks of Peter, “…Do you love me?” We must recognize this question as being central to our Christian faith. Answering yes to Jesus’ question creates in us a desire to simply be loved and show love to others, free from concern of results. Answering yes to this question allows us to reach out to others with forgiveness, mercy, and healing, without expectations. Answering yes to this question, gives us the ability to bring healing, reconciliation and hope, regardless of merit. And finally, answering yes to this question gives us the ability to simply experience the joy of living each day in the heart of God.

In the dugout with my Little League team, I realized something. I realized that the results of that game didn’t really matter. It didn’t really matter if we won or lost. It didn’t matter what we accomplished or even what happened in the next couple of hours…all that mattered was that my players were enjoying it. You know, I can’t even remember if we won. Glory be to the Lord our God.

Posted by Pastor Gary Hilton

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