STRIKE ZONE!

Spring time! Springtime means its time for America’s favorite past time – BASEBALL!

I love baseball!  I love everything about the game.  I love playing it.  I love the history.  I love the stadiums.  There’s nothing like being at your favorite stadium on a sunny day, watching your favorite team with a loaded up hot dog in one hand and a bag of roasted peanuts in the other.  It’s a sporting event and social event all wrapped in one.

What I really love is coaching the game, specifically kids.  I like getting them when they are young and still have a youthful innocent love of the game.  The age when all alone they go up to plate, call their shot “ala the Great Bambino”, hit the pretend fast ball, call their play in the style of their favorite announcer while they round the bases.  At that age a win is getting a kid who stood on home plate on their first ever at bat and ran to third when they hit the ball to tell you that that can’t wait for next season to play again because of how much fun they had.  Gotta love it!

One of the first things we teach the kids is how to hold and throw the ball.  I remember the first time I had my son on the field practicing and he threw the ball to me. It sailed high and to the left. (He’s a lefty).  I gave him the ball back, set up a target a several feet in front of him and told him to throw it again.  Again, sailed high and to the left.  I showed him that he wasn’t releasing the ball at a point where he would hit his target.  To illustrate this I had him start to throw but stop right at the point when he was going to release.  I had him freeze and I took the ball out of his hand and walked with the ball in the trajectory of his release point.  I walked a couple of feet and showed him where the ball would be.  It wasn’t too far off from the target.  I walked a few more feet at the trajectory of his throw and he could see he was a little more off target.  I kept walking showing him how the farther the ball would go, the farther off target he was based on his release point.  It painted a pretty dramatic picture for him.

I then showed him that if he adjusted his release point just a little down and to the right he would be much closer to his target.  If he kept making a few small adjustments he would eventually be dead on target. The adjustments were minor but the result was dramatic.   He hit the strike zone!

Isn’t that how it is with our relationship with God?  He’s what we are aiming for but for a variety of reasons our throw gets off and we miss Him.  We miss the strike zone of our faith.  Just like our baseball throw many times we only need minor adjustments, but those adjustments can have a dramatic impact.  With God they can have an eternal impact.

The question is, “Do we make the adjustments and do we even know what adjustments to make”.    With our throw we cannot always see what we are doing that puts us out of the strike zone. We just know that we are missing the target.  The same can be said in our walk with the Lord.  We can miss the strike zone and not even understand why we did and how to get back in the zone.

In the Old Testament David really understood this concept.  Though David “was a man after God’s own heart” he made many mistakes and had to make adjustments throughout his life to make sure he was hitting the strike zone.

One story that comes to mind is that of David, Nabal and Abigail.  At the time David is hanging out in the wilderness with his men.  He’s trying his best to steer clear of Saul who wants to kill him because Saul is extremely jealous of David.

We pick up the story in 1 Samuel 25:

“When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, he sent ten of his young men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: “Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” David’s young men gave this message to Nabal in David’s name, and they waited for a reply.

 “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?”

While David is in the wilderness, he needs some supplies.  He knows Nabal is a wealthy man of provision.  So David sends his men to Nabal to politely ask if he would help out he and his men.  David gently reminds Nabal that he protected his men from the thieves and criminals that were in the area.  Basically, if it weren’t for David’s protection, Nabal would have a lot less than he does.

Nabal’s response isn’t too nice.  Not only does he say no, he goes on to insult David.  David’s men bring Nabal’s message back to him and as you can expect David didn’t take too kindly to what Nabal had to say.

David’s response…

“Get your swords!” (1 Samuel 25:13)  Translated to 2018 “It’s on Jack!”

 David wasn’t taking this from Nabal.  He strapped on his sword, took 400 of his men and headed out.  No doubt the plan was a massive slaughter.  Nabal and his people did not stand a chance against David and his men.  No one would be left alive.  Nabal would have not known what hit him, had it not been for his very wise wife Abigail.

We read further on in 1 Samuel 25:

Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed insults at them. These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep. You need to know this and figure out what to do, for there is going to be trouble for our master and his whole family. He’s so ill-tempered that no one can even talk to him!”

 Abigail wasted no time. She quickly gathered 200 loaves of bread, two wineskins full of wine, five sheep that had been slaughtered, nearly a bushes of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes. She packed them on donkeys and said to her servants, “Go on ahead. I will follow you shortly.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal what she was doing.

 Abigail understood the consequences of her husband’s words and had the wisdom to do something about it.  I also love that she was smart enough to not let him know what she was doing.

As Abigail is in route to meet David, David is fuming over how he was treated by Nabal. During his journey he runs the scenario over and over in his mind getting angrier and angrier.   He is so mad about the situation he even says, May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!”  (1 Samuel 25:22)

Finally Abigail and David meet:

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him.  She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say.  I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests. But I never even saw the young men you sent.

 “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, since the Lord has kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands, let all your enemies and those who try to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is. And here is a present that I, your servant, have brought to you and your young men. Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life.

 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance. And when the Lord has done these great things for you, please remember me, your servant!”

Powerful right?!

Abigail is amazing.  She’s not David’s servant but she has no problem putting herself in a submissive posture, which ends up being a position of strength.  More importantly she speaks to David’s potential.

Did you get that?

She’s not speaking to David the man that’s ticked off ready to go take out Nabal and his innocent servants.  She is speaking to David the future King of Israel, a man of greatness.  She is speaking life into him.

What does this do for David?

David let his anger of how he was treated by Nabal take his eyes off God.  He was no longer pitching in the strike zone. David needed to adjust his throw.

Just like we need coaches in baseball to show us the adjustments we need to make to get our throws back in the strike zone, we also need someone to help us ensure we are staying in the strike zone with God.

That someone is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works in many ways to guide us in our lives to keep our focus on God. To keep us in the strike zone if you will.  One of the ways He does is through other people.

This was the case with David.  God used Abigail to show David the adjustment he needed to make to get back on target. The Holy Spirit was working in David so he could receive the powerful words Abigail spoke to him.  This had a major impact on David’s life.  It got him throwing strikes again so he could complete the life mission that God had for him.

In order to keep throwing strikes with God we need to be in tune to the Holy Spirit so when needed, He can adjust our throw.  We also need to be open to the words of other men and women of God that the Holy Spirit may use to help us make those adjustments.

The most practical way we can stay in tune with God and the Holy Spirit is daily prayer. We should start our day in prayer; pray throughout the day over every situation we are in and end our day in prayer. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy and artistic.  You don’t need the “thou arts”, just a conversation with God.

This is what David did.  Take a minute to open up the Bible to the Book of Psalms and you will find many of the conversations David had with God.  Conversations that helped him stay on target pitching strikes.

 Before I close this one out, do you know how the story of David and Abigail ends? Allow me to spoil it for you.

After a night of heavy drinking and partying, Abigail told Nabal what she did and he had a stroke and died.

Wait it gets better…

David finds out and sends his messengers to bring her back to be his wife.   The scripture says when the messengers arrived and Abigail received the message:

Quickly getting ready, she took along five of her servant girls as attendants, mounted her donkey, and went with David’s messengers.

Get that… “Quickly”.  The good guy got the girl at the end of the story!

Keep throwing strikes!  Be blessed my friends!

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