“The Lord is at hand.”
As the coronavirus lockdown continues, we are starting to see signs of unrest and even rebellion. As some people continue to strive to maintain social distancing, others are demanding that we go back to our daily lives. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? That debate won’t be ended anytime soon.
One thing is certain. The message of repentance will soon be forgotten. Oh, sure, some will forever talk about how God radically changed their life, spiritually, through the virus. For the rest of the world, God will soon be forgotten. Well, some never gave him a thought; but for those who did, the vast majority will forget they ever considered His hand in any of it.
It reminds me of the movie, “Maverick” with Mel Gibson. There was a scene in which he was caught up in a raging river and about to drown. As you might imagine, he called out to God and made all sorts of promises to change his ways. Of course, he made it to shore and went right back to his old ways – gambling, drinking, fighting, fornication, you name it.
Or like the old guy who is looking for a parking spot in the busy mall. He says, “Lord, please find a spot next to the door for me.” Just then, a car starts to back out, and he says, “Never mind, I found one.”
Folks, God left his calling card. A few weeks ago, everyone was looking for answers behind this pandemic. Not so much anymore. Soon, no one will be interested in considering that God wants our attention. Soon, even Christians won’t be interested. Before long, we’ll be so busy trying to rebuild our lives back to the way it used to be. We will scant think about God’s message at all.
I’m feeling this as well. I was fired up about sharing the gospel, but not as much anymore. Not like I was. Granted, there was a season in which the harvest was ripe, and that is now quickly passing. But I’m left with a question. Will the gospel be as important for me to share afterwards as it was during the pandemic? I really hope so. I would hate to think that I’m a fair-weather Christian. Or should I say a crisis-motivated Christian?
I don’t want to be like that. The gospel is just as important today as it was a month ago. God is just as much present now as he was then. Sure, people won’t be as willing to listen to my message, but the message is still vital. One might say more so, because the end of time is drawing nearer and nearer.
One more story. Some of you will remember Gary Gaetti, the Minnesota Twin third baseman from 1981-1990. Here’s part of an interview in the August 21, 1989 edition of Sports Illustrated:
Gaetti, who turns 31 on Saturday, is still swinging (.253, a team-high 18 homers and 67 RBIs, despite being bothered for the past six weeks by an abdominal muscle pull) and still diving (for possibly another Gold Glove), but his banshee days are over. While recovering from an operation on his left knee late last season, Gaetti became a born-again Christian. In a flash, he was delivered from his longtime pastimes of Dionysian excess: drinking (into the wee hours), smoking (about two packs a day) and cussing (with almost every sentence). The energy he once radiated in the dugout now flows instead when he opens his leather-bound Bible and guides a listener through the opening passages of the Gospel according to John.
Normally, players’ religious beliefs are not big news. But Gaetti’s conversion has been so conspicuous that it has received a lot of attention in the Minnesota papers and on local call-in radio shows. A frequent question is this: Has the born-again Gaetti lost the fire so vital to his success as a ballplayer? Or, to put it another way, can he serve two masters?
Gaetti, sitting in the Twins’ dugout before a game, is quick to answer. “According to His word, I was living pretty much full-speed for the Devil,” he says. “And I guess I was changed drastically, more so than a lot of other people. But anybody that says I would be docile about losing, I’d challenge him to stand in front of home plate with the ball and try to block me, and see if I have lost my intensity to play. God still uses qualities like intensity to further His plan.
“His eyes are brimming now with passion. “I’ve got to play baseball,” he says. “That’s my job. We’re supposed to work. I can’t scream and shout at the other team like I used to. But in ways I lead—I just do it a little different. I’m still trying to deal with that because that’s part of my profession. There’s times I don’t want to be in that position, but I am. I have to lead by example.
“But, to tell you the truth, I wish Jesus would come back now and let us all go to heaven. This world doesn’t compare to what heaven is like. The Apostle Paul says, ‘No eye can see, no mind can comprehend those things that God has planned for those who love Him.’ “
Not everyone was happy about that.
Almost to a man, the Twins respect Gaetti’s right to his new and deeply felt beliefs. For Hrbek, though, the conversion has been hard to accept. Hrbek first met Gaetti 10 years ago in Class A at Elizabethton, Tenn. By the time they reached the majors, Gaetti and Hrbek were fast friends and spent time together joking around the clubhouse, hanging around in bars and hunting during the off-season. Even when they began making millions, the two continued to share a room on the road. Their companionship, and its attendant carousing, formed the social spine of the team.
But now that a Bible is Gaetti’s constant companion, Hrbek isn’t. Hrbek, in fact, remains his old, profane self—”dropping F-bombs,” as he puts it. The two are no longer roommates. Hrbek seems unable to understand the change in his old pal. “He’s Gary Gaetti on the field—he still has heart and guts and power,” Hrbek says. “But he’s somebody I don’t know off the field. It’s almost like he passed away.” Says Gaetti of Hrbek, “I love Kent. We don’t do the same things we did before, but that’s good, O.K.?”
I met Gaetti in person in 2011 when he made a guest appearance for home opener of the St. Cloud River Bats. I stood in line to have him sign a baseball. I was a new Christian at the time, so I asked him if he was still as fired-up about Jesus as he once was. He sat back, looked down, and shook it head and said, “Not like I was.” Then he leaned back and looked right at me and quoted John 3:16. He was definitely a believer, but he had lost his spark.
Man, I hope that doesn’t happen to me.
Father, I need you in this. Fire me up because I will let this ember go out. I need you. Amen.