You have probably never heard of Stephen Strasburg. Few, with the exception of some who are heavily into the world of professional baseball, have. But that all changed this week.
The 21-year old first draft pick of the Washington Nationals made his debut on June 8th. The hype had been simply off the chart for the gifted hurler. But would he come through against big league hitters? And would the pressure of the build-up just cripple or somehow disguise the ability that had been so highly advertised?
To make a long story short, Strasburg not only won his first game, but gave one of the most dominant pitching performances in recent memory – including becoming the first rookie pitcher to strike out 14 batters and walk none in his major league debut. And this all occurred on just 94 pitches. Statistics also revealed that Strasburg thew 36 pitches over 98 miles an hour, with some clocking in at 100! But his curve may have been even more devastating. It made the Pirate hitters look almost helpless at the plate. He fanned the last seven batters he faced, and he struck out all nine Pirates starters at least once in the game.
Some called it the best pitching performance they had ‘ever seen’ and some are already comparing the new rookie star with Hall of Famers after seeing his stunning ability in just this one performance!
The quick impressive start by Stephen Strasburg was, in a word, overwhelming. He was excited, pumped up, focused, and gave his very best. The staggering results certainly verified that. But as impressive as his performance was, it was still just one game! A whole career will now follow and it will be years before the young athlete’s place in baseball history is officially determined.
In the Christian context there is a comparison and lesson when considering the fast and phenomenal start of rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Often, when first saved, new believers begin their new lives in Christ with great levels of passion, enthusiasm, and excitement. They hunger for God’s word, love to attend God’s house, be with God’s people, and try to share the miracle of their spiritual re-birth in Christ with those they meet. But just as with the quick and impressive start of Stephen Strasburg, there comes an entire Christian life to follow. And it is what occurs in the bulk of those years that matters most.
In one realm, the Apostle Paul could be compared as a biblical equivalent of this new baseball star. According to Galatians chapter one, it seems that Paul was prepared for his ministry debut just like Strasburg refinined his skills in the minor leagues. Many believe that Paul’s instruction came directly from the Lord himself because of a passage in Galatians chapter one. Verse 15 begins, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” (Galatians 1:15-17) Then after this theological training, Paul burst onto the scene. He began to turn the religious world of his day upside down for his new Savior – a world that he was previously entrenched in and where he held a highly respected ranking.
But over the years, despite some horrific hardships, his enthusiasm never wavered nor did his passion for souls falter. Additionally, Paul never felt that he had spiritually ‘arrived’ or could ‘coast’ because of his great accomplishments during the days of the early church. Philippians 3:12-14 gives great insight into his heart’s attitude and about his consistency of faith and the service that would last a life-time. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
It seems that Stephen Strasburg may fast become a household name, along with the fame and fortune so typical of all modern star athletes. But again, he will have to be consistent through most of his career and not just for a game or two or a year or two.
And for Christians to fulfill their destiny in Christ, they must maintain that ‘first love’ of their initial salvation and remain excited and motivated to live for Christ throughout their earthly journey. For those who do, and who demonstrate faith and service as did Paul, they too will someday be able to echo his words of victory and joy recorded in 2 Timothy 4:8.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”