Last evening, our struggling Pittsburgh Pirates faced off with the best team in all of Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
All you need to know about the Dodgers is that they have a record of 89 wins and 36 losses and are on pace to becoming one of the greatest teams (in a single year) of all time. Of course, they still hage a way to go but if they win 115 regular season games and the World Series, they will have an incredibly strong case to warrant that description.
However, something incredibly rare happened last evening. Our struggling Pittsburgh Pirates, who are probably not going to make the playoffs, have a losing record and have already lost two games in this four game series with the LA Dodgers, had one incredible game.
In a very brief summary, the Dodger pitcher for the night, Rich Hill, had thrown a perfect game through 8 full innings. In other words, 24 men had come to the plate and all 24 had been put out, whether by a play on defense or a strike-out. There were no walks, hit batsmen, or errors of any kind. However in the bottom of the 9th inning, the third baseman committed an error on a fairly routine ground ball, thus eliminating the possibility of a perfect game. However, this same pitcher still had a bona fide no-hit baseball game.
On the other side, the Pirates starting pitcher of the evening, Trevor Williams, had a much less impressive game having allowed a number of hits, walking 4 batters and hitting another one. However, Mr. Williams had not allowed a run to score and thus the game was tied at 0-0. A Pirate relief pitcher came in for the 9th inning and managed to keep the game scoreless.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, the third baseman for Los Angeles misplayed a fairly routine ground ball and committed the first error of the night, thereby eliminating a “perfect game” (defined as 27 batters up and retired in a regulation 9 inning game).
In the top of the 10th, another Pirate reliever retired the side and that set up the most unlikely of finishes.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, with a no-hitter still within reach, the The Dodger manager elected to keep the starting pitcher in the game, the right call in my mind. Then it happened.
Josh Harrison, the Pirate second baseman, hit the first pitch from Rich Hill over the left field wall, thereby scoring the game winning run and was called a walk-off home run. (That is the name given to any hit where both teams “walk-off” after the hit either drives in or scores a run.)
So in the end, the Pirates made one hit in ten innings and that one hit was a home run which won the game for the Pirates 1-0 even though the Dodgers had played a better game by every measurement.
I hope you’ll forgive the rather lengthy explanation of what took place because there is a significant lesson to be learned.
It can happen in our spiritual lives, in our walk with Christ, that we can go for a long long time without getting a hit (some act of God’s favor, answer to prayer or intervention of God’s grace to deliver, heal, provide or enable us to do something).
What I am guilty of and see in the lives of many other believers is that I am more likely to “give up” when almost nothing has happened despite weeks, months or even years of prayer and trusting God. Be honest, now, and ask yourself “When our enemy seems to defeat us at every turn, do we usually give up on God?” I’m not talking about a now and then kind of prayer but a major issue in our lives whether it be physical, relational or spiritual in nature.
I chatted with someone today that left the game in the 8th inning because he felt certain that the Dodgers would score a run and that the Pirates simply would not because of the dominance of the pitcher. Therefore, he missed an historic moment.
The first batter up in the bottom of the 10th was Josh Harrison who hit a ball into the left field, going over the wall and back just a few rows in the stands, but enough to be out of the reach of the defender and to become a bona fide home run.
If it’s the first time in the history of Major League Baseball (over 130 years) that someone lost a no-hitter based on one single hit, a home run, by the opposing team in the bottom half of an inning. The first time ever!
And though I’m inspired by the level of play and unyielding determination of both teams to become part of history, I’m most impressed that Josh Harrison specifically and the Pirate team in general didn’t give up even though they had been totally dominated for 9 straight innings.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve spoken with people who prayed for several weeks or months and in some cases years but have not seen God come through and answer the prayer as they had hoped. (I have great empathy with those folks as I have been praying for healing for my chronic back condition for 28 years ….) That’s the thing about faith. The Lord promises to answer our prayer but He never promises us when that will happen. Unfortunately most of us lack the determination to continue to believe God when He seems so silent and removed for so long. In my journey of being unable to get a “hit” against the evil one in a particular area I become very tempted to listen to the voices that say that “it must not be God’s will” or some other way of explaining away God’s promises and His power.
It is honestly very easy for me to understand why people “give up” their battle for healing, restoration, provision or whatever the need may be. But as long as God gives breath to your lungs and the ability to live another day, don’t give up your stance, your posture of faith. Your faith is pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6) and you just never know what may happen and when God may do something inexplicably glorious in your life! And by the way, God does promise that throughout your time of waiting, He will provide grace (the undeserved favor of God) to you during your long, long season of waiting.
Let me be perfectly clear. There are some people who simply do not see their prayer answered in this lifetime. Those dear folks may die with the promise yet to be fulfilled, but they also die having pleased God by maintaining a posture of faith, not giving up, throughout their entire lifetime.
Remember, however, there are also those stories like the one I just described. Stories where it’s very late in the game and all indications are that you are inevitably going to lose; but God shows up and you “win” the most important battle of your life.
Sometimes God, just like baseball, is very difficult to fully understand. However, He is to be fully trusted and obeyed because He is always faithful!