Understanding The Bible
Don't Die On Third Base
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.
Jesus said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34
As I pray over, and write this sermon, IT IS ALMOST “WORLD SERIES” time in the good ‘ole U.S.A. It’s into October, 2006, and we still do not know who will be in the Series. This year with all the SCANDALS, the DISGRACEFUL FALL of some former stars, the DRUGS, the FIRINGS of managers, the LEGAL PROBLEMS of some players, the SLUMP of a few teams during the last few weeks of the season. MANY QUESTIONS surround Major League Baseball and its future. The question still reigns: “WHO WILL BE IN THE WORLD SERIES?” Which team will DIE ON THIRD BASE….”ALMOST WINNERS!”
While I was pastor in California, I WAS COACHING a summer American Legion Baseball team. We were tied for the Pacific Northwest lead with another team from Eureka. A win would have put us in the Northern California playoffs. The GAME WAS TIED three to three, and we came to bat in the last of the NINTH inning. After one out, we loaded the bases.
Our little town closed its businesses to come see this game. It was so exciting. Parents were going wild and the boys were really excited. Parents were exhorting their sons to “SWING FOR THE FENCES.” After a call strike two, I called Tommy back from the plate and told him, “just swing smooth, we don’t need a home run.” But, the parents continued to yell, “KNOCK A HOME RUN” and ‘KNOCK IT OUT OF THE PARK.” Tommy swung as hard as he could. STRIKE THREE! We were SO CLOSE, but our runner DIED ON THIRD. I just glared at the parents in the stands, and shouted, “let me coach ‘em.”
We went to the TENTH INNING, and got them out. Now, LAST of the TENTH, and we were up again. Bryan came to the plate and singled. He stole second, and went to third on a fly ball. ONE OUT, WINNING RUN ON THIRD again, and our biggest hitter was up at the plate. Bob swung at the first ball so hard, he almost came out of his shoes. The PARENTS were screaming at the top of their voices, “HIT A HOMER BOB, HIT IT OVER THE FENCE.”
I called Bobby back and told him, “Bob, we don’t need a homer. I’m going to tell you HOW TO BE A HERO.” He ask me, “How do I do that coach?” I got in his ear and said, “You are GOING TO BUNT.” “WHAT, NO WAY,” he said. I told him, “DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS. DO NOT LISTEN TO THE CROWD…and BUNT.”
Bob BUNTED….Bryan SCORED….WE WON!!!
NO baseball game IS EVER WON ON THIRD BASE. The person who QUITS TRYING, the one who MAKES EXCUSES, those who will NOT HUSTLE, the one who GOES ALONG with the CROWD, the one who’s always LOAFING, or who PLAYS to the GRANDSTAND, or blames his FAILURE on the UMPIRE will NEVER GET OFF THIRD BASE. The man on third must have ONE THING IN MIND….SCORE!
I. SOME CHURCHES DIE ON THIRD BASE
Some CHURCHES just seem to be waiting on something to happen, rather than making things happen. WE ARE WAITING on the PASTOR, for the right EVANGELIST, for a big REVIVAL to help us around third. They wait for a PASSED BALL, a WILD PITCH, a BALK or a BAD THROW. They are just relying on their CHURCH SIGN: “Services: 11 a. m…..You' all Come On In.”
Some PEOPLE in
America are like that…..CAMPED ON THIRD, just waiting for UNCLE SAM to help and
support them. They wait every month for the BIG DOLE, the WELFARE HANDOUT, the
FREE LUNCH. While I am all for helping the helpless and the hopeless. MANY OF
THESE are HEALTHY and could work. They seem to know better than GOD’S PLAN….“by
the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread…” (Genesis 3:19) And, the Apostle
Paul said, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (II Thessalonians
HOW MANY of YOU like to watch BASEBALL, RAISE YOUR HANDS? Like baseball, most sporting events have SEVERAL DIFFERENT CLASSES OF PEOPLE. These people are the kind of people that usually cause a person to DIE ON THIRD. QUESTION: WHAT CLASS are you in?
A. FIRST, THERE ARE THE KNOCKERS AND COMPLAINERS
Every baseball game has its knockers. They KNOCK the TEAM, the COACH, the SCHOOL, and the PARENTS. LISTEN CAREFULLY and you can hear them knocking their TOWN, the MAYOR, their JOB, their BOSS….AND, YES, EVEN THEIR CHURCH.
There is no place on earth where KNOCKING is more dominating than at a baseball game, UNLESS IT IS THE CHURCH. It is usually true that “KNOCKERS do not WORK, and WORKERS do not KNOCK.”
Then, there are the COMPLAINERS. These are those who can never be pleased with anything that happens….at a GAME, or in the CHURCH. Someone likened then to this little STORY: IF THEY had been PRESENT when our Lord performed the MIRACLE of the loaves and fishes. They would have complained because there was NO LEMON for the fish, and NO BUTTER for the bread. NOTHING, absolutely nothing, ever pleases them….SO THEY COMPLAIN!
BEN FRANKLIN once said, “Any FOOL can criticize, condemn, and complain, and MOST FOOLS DO!” SOMEONE ELSE said, “I’ve seen lots of STATUES erected to those who have been criticized, but I have never seen a statue erected to a critic.” ARE YOU a critic, a criticizer or a knocker?
I heard about the TWO TAXIDERMISTS who stopped in front of a store window and immediately began to CRITICIZE the way an OWL had been MOUNTED. “Its EYES are not natural.” one said. “Yeah, and its WINGS are not in proportion to its head,” said the other. “Its FEATHERS are not neatly arranged; and its FEET on that limb could be improved,” the other critic said. During their CRITIQUE, the old OWL TURNED his head, WINKED at them, then FLEW down to the ground.
B. SECOND, THERE ARE THE QUITTERS
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A QUITTER never wins, and a WINNER never quits.” STICKABILITY and PERSEVERANCE are some of the most admired qualities in a successful persons life.
SOMEONE HAS SAID, “If all the world loves a lover, then all the world despises a quitter.” WHY? They start off so fast, but just can’t stand the strain. They break under pressure and desert in the day of battle. Some just quit with every gust of wind. They crusade today, but they renounce tomorrow. Quitter!
To PARAPHRASE the Apostle Paul, “I have played the game hard, I have raced from third, I have crossed the plate, and have won the trophy for first place….but, not just me, but to all who will run the race with purpose.”
This is God’s church, and I am God’s child….SO, THIS IS ALSO MY CHURCH! This is MY FAMILY! Can I say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished my course.” (II Timothy 4:7).
C. THIRD, THERE ARE THE BENCH WARMERS
These are the people who don’t knock…they don’t cheer…they don’t criticize, they JUST SIT THERE. In the church, they are the SCULPTURED FIGURES whose favorite hymn is: “I shall not be moved.” They just sit, and sit, and sit. No one can “THAW” them out. You can’t “FREEZE” them out, and nobody can “FIRE” them up.
For many, the CHURCH is nothing more than a SPIRITUAL HOTEL serving up a meal or two on Sunday on its EXCURSION TRAIN to glory. For others, the CHURCH is nothing more than just another COUNTRY CLUB for spiritual fat cats, INSTEAD OF BEING a HOSPITAL for the lost, the wounded and the hurting. Instead of the church being a great HUMMING PLANT of machinery producing LIFE and HEALING and CHARACTER, it has become just another CLUB in the meaningless list of clubs that plagues our nation.
There is no one so bland and meaningless as a SPIRITUAL WALLFLOWER, the person who just sits there and refuses to get involved in the game. These religious STANDPATTERS are simply good for nothing in the Kingdom of God.
In BASEBALL, if you are a BENCHWARMER, and never get in the game, and never contribute to the team….YOU ARE FIRED! And, I believe, the CHURCH must either FIRE them UP….OR….FIRE them OUT! LISTEN: There comes a time when a DECISION FOR, OR AGAINST “COMMITMENT” must be made. It’s no wonder that OUR LORD DECLARED to one church, “I wish that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16). Jesus said, “You are either WITH me, or AGAINST me.” (Matthew 12:30).
II. SOME MINISTERS DIE ON THIRD BASE
Many of these
PASTORS die on third base, because they make NO EFFORT TO SCORE! Some are
FAITHFUL, GIFTED, TALENTED men! They never make the bonehead play, the wild
pitch, or are not caught napping on first base. They never seem to be “RATTLED,”
but always seem to have a SPIRITUAL CHARLIE HORSE, that keeps them from doing
anything positive of the Lord.
Have you ever noticed how a good BASEBALL TEAM that works together continues to get better? However, sometimes, even a team can become OVERCONFIDENT and PRIDEFUL. Some teams become so BOASTFUL that it begins to hinder their performance. It becomes: “all about me,” OR “look at me…I’m the best.”
After almost 50 years of preaching the Gospel, I believe that the GREATEST DOWNFALL of the MINISTER is “PRIDE!” Some may fall through SEXUAL sins, and some through GREED for material gain, and some from the STRESSFUL pressure from the leadership of the church or the congregation, but it is PRIDE that leads to personal weakness and a fall. (I Corinthians 10:12)
Ministers are called to be HUMBLE. The Apostle Paul warned against PRIDE. In his letter to the CHURCH at EPHESUS, he wrote, “See that you walk circumspectly (carefully), not as fools, but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15). The minister must be extra careful about temptations, and especially HOW HE VIEWS HIMSELF. There is a great difference between letting the light of God shine THROUGH you, and just letting YOUR OWN light shine.
Many SPORTS FIGURES are like that. Ever see a RECEIVER DANCE in the end-zone after catching a pass for a touchdown? “IT’S ME, IT’S ME! And don’t you forget it,” he is saying. MINISTERS SHOULD NOT be like that! Because of a ministers position in the church, he can began to think that he is BETTER than everyone else. He may think that he is someone SPECIAL, and DESERVES special attention. He may think he KNOWS MORE than everyone else, and therefore he should be given special treatment. These things, and many more may lead him to stronger PATH OF PRIDE…AND A FALL.
REMEMBER the great old HYMN, “Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus.”? One verse says, “The arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own.” Before you know it, instead of being a CHRISTIAN SOLDIER, the minister who trusts only in self will be come a little CONCEITED TOY soldier. Instead of being equipped with the “Sword of the Spirit,” the minister will only have a little “Butter Knife.” His POWER and GLORY will be gone, BECAUSE HE HAS FALLEN TO PRIDE, and worst of all, he won’t even know it.” (I Samuel 4:21).
Some MINISTERS just FORGET who they are: They were CALLED and ORDAINED to preach BY THE LORD ! Every GOD-CALLED preacher should fulfill his deepest longing, his daily purpose, to preach and share the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, some ministers are “just there.” They never visit, they never prepare, they never share, they never try to win souls to their Lord. They JUST SIT ON THIRD base and expect someone else to help them to score.
LISTEN BASEBALL FANS: There is nothing in the universe SO SAD as to see a man DIE on THIRD BASE. There is nothing so disheartening as to see a TEAM FALL TO PIECES in the ninth; to see a PITCHER blow up in the last inning, to witness an ERROR in a crucial situation causing the team to lose the game. It’s always so SAD to FAIL TO WIN with a RUNNER ON THIRD BASE.
BUT, LET ME END THIS MESSAGE ON A HIGHER NOTE, A POSITIVE AND EXCITING WORD…
What do you think about this verse…? “What shall it profit a man if he gain the PLAYOFFS and make it to the WORLD SERIES, and DIE ON THIRD BASE?” No, that’s NOT in God’s Word, but IT IS IN the BASEBALL BIBLE.
III. SOME REASONS TO SCORE FROM THIRD BASE
A. YOUR MOTHER IS WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME PLATE
There’s nothing greater than a MOTHERS PRAYER: “God save my child.” Many a man who’s life has been steeped in sin, was brought to conviction by his mothers prayers. Many were going, going, and almost gone, but their mother prayed, and through the power of the Holy Spirit in response to her prayers, a son or a daughter was transformed through the blood of Jesus.
On the other hand, many a sinful men has NAILED THE LID on his mother’s coffin by their rebellious, ungodly lives. Scores of mothers lives could have been prolonged if only she could hear that her son or daughter has been saved.
B. HUSBAND, A WIFE IS WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME PLATE
Sir, she does not want your money, your presents, or the material things of life. She wants YOU, and her FAMILY CIRCLE complete. She wants you to pull with her. She wants you to be the SPIRITUAL LEADER of the home. Far too many homes have a HUSBAND who SWEARS, and a WIFE that PRAYS. MISTER, SHE WAITS FOR YOU TO RUN FROM THIRD….TO VICTORY.
C. PARENTS: A CHILD IS WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME PLATE
One little boy said to me, “If my Dad can be so kind and clean, and not a member of the church WHY SHOULD I BELONG?” Many a child is without Christ and outside the Church because of his dad. IN THE JUDGMENT many a BOY will say, “My dad never read his Bible, never prayed, never told me about Jesus.” I believe if there is a place in HELL that is HOTTER than any other place, it will be for the father who did not give his son a good example.
A man should be a Christian for his child’s sake if for no other reason. PERSONALLY, I’d rather you’d spit in my face, or just shoot me dead in my tracks, than to have my child say, “Daddy, you didn’t do your best for me.”
AND MORE IMPORTANTLY….
D. FRIENDS, A WONDERFUL SAVIOR IS WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME PLATE
God Almighty, in His Son Jesus, is waiting for you. How long He has waited for you. Through the long hours of the DAY, and during the long silence of the NIGHT, He has waited for you. He is ready to save and bring you home now.
During your whole life, with YOUR series of RESOLUTIONS, BROKEN VOWS, BROKEN PROMISES, and SINFUL ACTIONS…Jesus has been waiting for you. JESUS CALLS OUT to you, “Let Me bear your burdens,” “Let Me forgive your sins,” “Let Me enrich your life.” Your LOVED ONES are praying for you, the HOLY SPIRIT of God is urging you to be saved, and JESUS is waiting to forgive your sins and change your life.
MY FRIEND, WHY WILL YOU WAIT until the last GAME is played, the last BALL is pitched, the NINTH inning is over, TO REACH HOME PLATE? GOD FORBID, that you should wait and hear the UMPIRE OF THE UNIVERSE say, “THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE OUT!” Why will you wait?
The story is told about A FAMOUS BASEBALL MANAGER on the West Coast who was about to die. His BALL PLAYERS came by to see him. With his last ounce of strength, he propped himself up in bed and said to his team, “Boys, I have played my last game, I have just signed up with the all-star team above. Get on that team; she’s a winner.”
Some of you are so CLOSE to REACHING HOME PLATE. You are ALMOST there. You are ALMOST FORGIVEN. You are ALMOST SAVED. BUT, YOU ARE STILL LOST IN YOUR SIN. “ALMOST, but LOST.”
Philip P. Bliss penned it this way…
“Almost persuaded” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded” Christ to receive:
Seems now some soul to say, “Go Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day, On Thee I’ll call.”
“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail, “almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail, “ALMOST,” BUT LOST!
OH, MY FRIEND,
King Agrippa said to the Apostle Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a
Christian.“ I say with Paul, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who
hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am…” (Acts
Will you be saved today….and CROSS HOME PLATE? Jesus is the WAY to VICTORY and ETERNAL LIFE. (John 14:6) DON’T DIE ON THIRD BASE! Will YOU trust Him TODAY as SAVOR and LORD of your life? God says, “Now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2)
Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen
Used by permission
JESUS 'LORD' OF YOUR LIFE?"
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton
1. Before October 1, 2006, Dr. Clifton had been serving as Interim Preacher at King's Baptist church, in Vero Beach, Florida, for several months. Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here. He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.
Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography