Casey Stengel, Hall of Fame baseball manager for the Yankees and Mets, was known for his sayings. He once said, “There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.” I first heard that quote as ‘Somedays you win, somedays you lose and somedays it rains.’ First time I heard it I thought it was silly. The more I thought about it, the more profound it seemed. And it got me thinking about the Christian life.
As a Christian, sometimes we win. In the Bible, can you think of a bigger win than Acts 2? Peter is preaching the first gospel sermon, and the response is incredible:
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37-41)
Three thousand souls were saved that first day as they accepted the Gospel. 3,000! Hey preachers, have you ever had a day like that? In reading about the Restoration period, I read of evangelists holding 2-3 week gospel meetings in which 1,000 people were baptized during the course of the meeting. But that was over three weeks, and this is in just one day – and three times as much! An incredible win. Do you think Peter was feeling good that evening? And there are other big wins scattered throughout Acts. John and Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 led to thousands more being baptized in Acts 4:4. Paul had, for all practical purposes, a whole city turn out to listen to him in Acts 13:44. Somedays, we win.
But somedays, we lose. An example would be the last part of Acts 17. Paul is in the city of Athens waiting for his companions to catch up, having been rushed out of Berea ahead of a lynch mob. While waiting, he sees the rampant idolatry around him and he can’t help himself. He speaks out against this evil. The Athenian intelligentsia hear about him and decide to grant him an audience. What an opportunity! These are some of the leading thinkers of the day. What if Paul can convert a number of them? So he begins to speak in Acts 17:22 and gives what is widely considered one of the best gospel sermons ever. In the space of ten verses he brings these men from idol worshippers unaware of God to the Gospel of the resurrected Savior. An incredible sermon. And what is their response?
“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this."” (Acts 17:32)
The vulgar laughed and the polite essentially gave him a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Paul had a wonderful opportunity and preached perhaps the greatest sermon ever and **pffft!**
When thinking of losses, how can we not think of Noah? Peter calls him a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5) and it seems that he had roughly 100 years to preach (Gen. 6:10,13; 7:6). In 100 years of preaching, he saved precisely no one outside his family. Again, preachers, have you ever had a dry spell to compare to that? Somedays, despite our best efforts, we lose.
And somedays, it rains. Nothing goes the way we had planned. We see this in Paul’s life at least twice. First, Acts 16:6-8
“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.”
Having been very successful in what we would today call southeastern Turkey, he planned to move to southwestern Turkey but, whoops, the Holy Spirit forbade them. Ok, let’s go to north-central Turkey. Whoops, Jesus would not allow it. All his plans done in by acts of God (isn’t that an insurance phrase for weather?) Paul wound up in Troas. Where he heard what we term the Macedonian Call. And churches were planted in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth specifically because Paul’s plans were ruined. He couldn’t serve God in the way he had planned, but he continued to serve as best he could in the situation he found himself. And souls were saved.
Then there’s Acts 20:2-3
“And when he had gone through those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece. And when he had spent three months there, and a plot was laid against him by Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia.”
Paul was in a hurry to return to Jerusalem and give the poor their the alms he had been collecting from the various Gentile churches. He planned to sail from Corinth to Syria and then, likely, from Syria to Caesarea and then overland to Jerusalem. That was the fastest means of travel at that time. But his plans were ruined by something out of his control: the machinations of his enemies. So, to avoid them, he took the long way around. And had a chance to revisit the Macedonian churches, preach in Troas, and see the Ephesian elders again for what he thought would be the last time. Some of the most often referred to passages in Acts wouldn’t have been written if Paul’s plans had worked out. Somedays, it rains, but we still serve as best we can.
In our service to the Lord, somedays we will win big. There will be much rejoicing and the results of our efforts for the Lord will be obvious. Somedays, however, we will lose. Despite our best efforts we won’t accomplish what we set out to do for Him. Even in our losses, though, we can find some progress. In Acts 17 it does mention two who believed and clung to Paul, despite the ridicule of the multitude. And Noah was not completely unsuccessful, he did save his wife, three sons, and their wives, in addition to himself. If we give our all for God, He will make some use of it, even if it seems a loss to us. And somedays, it will rain. Everything we thought we would do for the Lord will get turned on its head. We’ll find ourselves in circumstances far different than we expected, doing different work than we expected. Even in those odd situations if we do the work before us, we can have a great impact for the Lord.
The examples given were all of evangelism, but this is true of all service to God. As parents raising your children for Him, somedays you will win, somedays it will seem as if you lost despite your best efforts, and somedays nothing will go as you expected. Keep pressing on. As ministers to needy brethren we will win, lose, or have it rain, but keep doing what you can. In all of the examples win, lose, or rain, God used the efforts of His workers to accomplish His will. He will do so today as well.
Regardless of the weather, keep “pressing on”.
Heb. 6:11-12 “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but IMITATORS OF THOSE WHO THROUGH FAITH AND PATIENCE inherit the promises.”