Baseball season is now underway, and the World Champion Houston Astros unveiled their banner at the home opener this past Monday. Even if you were not watching the game, you probably saw it on the news – things did not go smoothly. But, to be fair, they had no prior experience in unveiling a World Championship banner.
I am new to this area, but not to Astros fandom. One of my earliest memories in sports is attending a game at the Dome in the late 80s with Nolan Ryan on the mound. I had a set of commemorative baseballs on display in my room as a boy, featuring four of the stars of the early 90s – Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, of course, but also Doug Drabek and, I believe, Greg Swindell. I scrapped together enough money as a college student to drive over from Austin and catch a game of the NLDS against the Braves when they made the World Series in ’05.
The point is, I know how long the journey to unveiling that banner was. Along the way, there were some really good teams who suffered heartbreaking near-misses. More recently, there was a period of 3 years, 2011-2013, when the Astros lost more than 100 games every season. Their cumulative winning percentage for those 3 seasons was the worst for any team in half a century; they even accomplished the rare feat of being the worst team in baseball in each of those 3 seasons individually, an achievement matched only 4 times before.
They were not just bad. They were historically bad.
But there was a plan in place throughout all of those long years. Trading away any and all major league assets allowed them to restock the farm system. Their losing record allowed them to pick at the top of the draft. They were laying the foundation for better things ahead. The rallying cry for fans during those years was “Trust the Process.” And those who were faithful and loyal and did not lose hope were rewarded for their endurance with a World Series victory at last.
There is a lesson in this for the people of God. In our individual lives, we will all experience peaks and valleys. The church as a whole goes through highs and lows, good times and bad times. But in the midst of these ups and downs, we have the exhortation of Paul:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9).
Paul reveals one of the secrets of a life spent in service to the Lord: he refused to quit. He kept going, even in the midst of adversity, when others had fallen aside. The weariness Paul experienced was temporary; the hope he expresses is eternal. In due season, we will reap.
It reminds me of how he winds up the great chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15. After reminding his readers of his preaching on the resurrection, of the fact that Christ was raised from the dead and given a kingdom, and that one day, we will be raised like him, he reaches his conclusion. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Christ has been raised – the victory has been won! Your work is not wasted. So get to it.
May we all remain faithful and loyal even in the midst of adversity. May we all hold on to the hope that we have in Christ, confident that victory awaits us. May we all endeavor to build for God’s kingdom, knowing that it will produce results both here and hereafter.
Let’s get to work.