Playing the game of life
June 18, 2012
by Pastor Mark Loder, St. John's Lutheran Church, Winsted

Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Two outs. Full count. Your team is down by one. Get a hit, your team most likely wins. Here’s the pitch.

As the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand, it’s as if time stands still, or at least flows in super slow motion. Your eye catches the seams of the ball, you see the rotation, you see that it’s a fast ball, right down the middle of the plate.

As the ball gets to you, you swing. Smack! The ball hits the catcher’s glove – your team lost.

Suddenly, you feel as if you’re all alone as you stand in place, ignoring the cheers and glee from the other team. You are a loser; you have lost the game.

Sadly, this is where we are in this world. It’s all about winning. You can’t make it in life unless you’re a winner. And if you lose, that just shows how weak you are and that you aren’t worth anything. But doesn’t anyone see how ridiculous that is?

First, usually what we’re talking about is some sort of sport or other competition. Yes, it feels good to win, but there’s so much more to the game than winning: learning to be on a team, learning to be a good sport, learning to be a gracious loser, learning how to be a humble winner, learning, learning, learning.

That scenario at the beginning of this column happens all the time. And who/what do you remember? The batter. You, the batter, lost the game.

But, listen to this, no you didn’t. You’re on a team. And just as much as you didn’t win the game, you didn’t lose the game either – and you will never do either of them on your own.

Such is life. If we are completely honest with ourselves, in and through our confession of biblical truth, we realize that when it comes to winning and losing, we are born losers, for we are born sinful.

Ephesians 2:3 firmly tells us, “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

As sinful beings, we can’t do anything without first taking care of the sin. It’s kind of like coming to the plate with two strikes already against you, and you are blindfolded.

But the joy of it all is that there are other players, and in our case, there’s another Player who has already turned your life into a win, so that what you do here on earth doesn’t have to be judged by how good you are at this or that. Rather, you live by the faith that is sealed within you – the gift that Jesus pours upon you at Baptism. In fact, not only did Jesus play the game of life in this world for us, but He did so perfectly, fulfilling all law and scripture, and then commanded that we go out and bring others into this reality.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

We are called to be disciples. We are players in this game of life – this world of both trial and joy. And in doing so, we are comforted to know that Jesus is with us, the whole way through.

Look, the reality is, you are going to strike out, you are going to let your team down at times. But we do well to remember that though we are prone to make mistakes, we have been given a gift, a gracious gift, in and through the work of Jesus Christ. He has taken your sin, bore it innocently, died on the cross to make payment for such, was buried, and rose again, leaving Satan’s claim to fame – death– conquered.

You can spend your life trying to make yourself a winner, but there’s only one win that will ever mean anything in life – and that’s when Jesus won salvation for you. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8).