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Religious Reflections

Lessons from the College World Series

by Pastor Nathan Zakahi

A routine pop fly in foul territory with plenty of room to make the catch and third baseman All-American Travis Buck waiting for it to land in his glove. What happens? The ball lands about 15 feet behind him. He misjudged it and it gave the batter a second chance. This was a crucial game in a series that would decide who would make it to this year's College World Series.

The TV camera focused in on the third baseman from Richland, after the play. How did he respond? He was actually smiling and chuckling as he peered into his team's dugout. As the camera switched to the dugout, it focused on Coach Pat Murphy of Arizona State, who had just witnessed the miscue. How did the coach respond? He also was chuckling and shaking his head in amusement at his own player.

Out of all the great displays of hitting and defense in college baseball's premier tournament, that's what I remember. Why does that stand out to me? In a pressure packed setting where the game and series can turn on any given play or misplay and where a win means reaching the pinnacle of the sport, coach and player are chuckling! Now that runs counter to what is normal and usual in the sport. Normally you will find a player who misses such a ball kicking the dirt and perhaps yelling obscenities in anger and frustration. You will find the coach doing the same in the dugout. After all, what could be more important in such a nationally televised game than making the play and getting the out? That is precisely the point. The reaction of the Arizona State player and coach shows that there are more important things.

Almost 2,000 years ago, the Thessalonians were in the midst of suffering and being persecuted for their faith. The normal reaction calls for grumbling, complaining, bitterness and rancor. Instead we find that the people there continued to receive the Gospel with joy and so became a model to all in the region (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). The Apostle Paul ends his letter to these people by further instructing them in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Joy and thanksgiving in times of peace and prosperity is understandable but in times of suffering and hardship?

It is not the person who grumbles under adverse circumstances that stand out to us because it seems most act this way. It is rather the person who remains joyful and grateful. It is not the person who panics under pressure that we remember because that's a common sight. It is rather the one who can remain calm with a patient trust under the intensity of life. That is the kind of life to which Christians are called. It runs counter to what is normal and usual. It is a life that is powered by the Spirit of God who grants such strength of character. It is God's will that you stand out in the home, at work, at church and even at the ballpark.

- Pastor Nathan Zakahi of the Sunnyside Grace Brethren Church.

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