As I'm sure everyone in the internet world knows, the Pirates have recently cinched their 20th losing season in a row.
In. A. Row.
Now, I'm not the hugest baseball fan - my brother definitely surpasses me in this - but I enjoy watching it. I don't know everything about it, but I know enough that I can talk about it sometimes. I love going to games - major league games, school games, and simple county league games. There's something I love about baseball.
While the Pirates were doing incredibly well this season - an unheard of (in Pittsburgh) 16 games over .500 - many people jumped on the proverbial Pirates bandwagon. It was great. We were winning, Cutch was going to win MVP and all of the other baseball trophy award things that I don't pretend to understand, and life was good. People were flashing Zoltans left and right. Root Sports was actually bearable to watch with the announcers being so excited and happy and yay yay Pittsburgh yay. Talk of a center field Z was rampant, the playoffs were real, and Pirates fans experienced something that they hadn't had a chance to feel in almost 2 decades - hope.
Then came the All Star break.
After the break, the team started their slow collapse. They held their own sometimes, yes, but eventually, the Pirates' ship sailed. (Pun somewhat intended.) People started leaving the bandwagon. Seats were available, and weren't being taken by others.
Mikey and Big Bob from the Freak Show started the "Quest for .500," filling Twitter and Facebook with images of corgis and Zoltans and old movie stills in an attempt to gain some momentum for the city and their dying hope of the playoffs. The Crazy Italian Guy called in to the radio show religiously, going so far as to get a "No Fairweatherness" tattoo to prove that, in the good times and bad, the Pirates still deserved some fans, and Pittsburgh deserved some devoted fans.
It was a crazy time.
Unfortunately, as is the way with every Pirates season since I have graced the world with my being, the team started to get the short end of the stick. In short - they stunk. They ended their season and their playoff hopes ended when they concluded with a heartbreaking record of 77-82.
So many people jumped on the Pirates wagon when they were doing well this summer. People that had no hope for the Buccos for the past 2 decades suddenly were buying the $9 fries from Chickie and Pete's (which, seriously, are delicious and I still have no regrets over this purchase) and flashing their hands in the Zoltan. What happened? The ride got rough, the tables were turned, and things got difficult. So, they left.
Our walk in faith can be like this, too.
We start out so excited in what can happen - as a new Christian, or someone off a spiritual high, this is an intense time. We can change the world, nothing bad can happen, being a Christian is the coolest thing in the world.
Enter persecution. Enter judgement. Enter a storm in our lives.
How quick we are to jump off of the faith wagon.
Things aren't supposed to get rough, we think. I'm a Christian, we're supposed to have it all together.
If that was the case, I would never, EVER be allowed to be a Christian. Who honestly can say they have it all together 100% of the time? No one, that's who. Everyone has something going on at some point.
Getting judged in your class for being the only Christian. Having your teacher or professor continually pick at you for your beliefs. Your coworkers tease you for being the goody two shoes. (What does that even mean? Anyway...)
Friends dropping you because you aren't the "fun guy" they used to know. Other girls spreading rumors about you because you don't act the way you used to. Persecution comes from all sides, in all shapes and forms. Who knows when it will strike next?
So here you are - fresh off of your spiritual high, thinking you can take on the world, when instead the world decides to change things up a bit. You're close to your breaking point - 2 outs, bottom of the 9th.
It's so easy to step back and say, "Hey. I didn't sign up for this. Being Christian is supposed to mean nothing bad happens." Wrong! It says in Matthew 5, commonly referred to as the Beatitudes that "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." It's okay that we go through storms. In the end, we win.
It says this in 2 Timothy 3:12 -
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
Every Christian will go through something that will make them want to throw in the towel. It's what happens. It's so tempting to leave, to jump off the wagon, to stop being a "fan" of faith and God and go back to what we were before:
People just waiting and searching for hope.
There's a great reason not to, though.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” John 15:18-20
Jesus was persecuted first. He was hated first. He went through storms first. For us. He faced every temptation, every storm, every battle that we ever have or could possibly think of. If He made it, why can't we?
Here's one more, and a fantastic reminder for when we just want to give up the ghost:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor. 12:9 – 10
When I am weak, then I am strong.
Sadly, the Pirates tanked this season. They faced some pretty serious storms and couldn't quite make it to playoffs. Does this mean they're out forever and ever amen? No way. They're training. Resting up. Getting better for next season and learning from their mistakes (let's hope...) That's what we should do when we face a hard time in our own seasons of our lives. Rest up. Let God take over. Learn from our mistakes. And move on, better, and stronger, than before. When we are weak, then we are strong.
What about you? When times get rough, do you tap out? Let the situation or the person win? Take a step back and think. If this is you, take a minute to pray. Realize that God is there - He's not losing, He isn't ditching you, and being part of His "fan base" doesn't always mean things will always go your way. Things will get hard. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. When we are weak, we are strong. - in HIM.
Buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. This bandwagon isn't giving up. No fairweatherness.
Are you in?