There used to be a commercial that told us “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Seattle Mariners outfielder James Jones may not be familiar with that old ad, but he did make a strong impression with the Mariners when he was first called up in April of 2014. He got a hit in his first major league at bat – an infield single. And despite a brief return to the minors, Jones would have his name in the Mariners history books before the end of May. He became the only Mariner to record a hit in each of his first 13 major league starts. Not bad for a guy who was undrafted and barely recruited out of high school. He played college ball at Long Island University in Brooklyn – close enough to home, as you can read in this article from ESPN, that his family could watch his games and he could remain active in his church. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft as a pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball. He converted to outfield after the draft and hasn’t looked back. He played over 100 games last season and split this year between AAA and Seattle.
As you can read in this article from the Alabama Baptist, Jones sees baseball as a great way to show God to others. He says “Your relationship with Christ should just ooze out of you naturally to where it becomes a catalyst with other people… I am a light where everything I do is a reflection of my relationship with Christ. … My goal is for people to see Christ in me.” a His teammates sense that passion for God. One said “The way he walks around all the time and just the joy that he has. If I could describe him in one word it would be joy. He is always joyful, always smiling. As the Scripture says you will know them because of their joy.”
Here are my takeaway from Jones’s story
1- The Best Gift – What is the best gift you have ever received? I asked that question at the after school program I direct and the answers were fascinating. Most said some kind of electronic device, but some, as this question was being asked during our daily Bible lesson time gave answers like “life”, “family” and “God”. The lesson for the day was Romans 6.23 which says “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is a verse that I know I memorized at a young age, but only a careful consideration of each word in the verse really awakens the depth of what it means. We deserved death – separation from God that is unending. That is what we earn for our defiance of God, our rebellion and our inherited sinfulness. It is a desperate situation that we are powerless to deal with on our own. Which is why the second part of the verse is so jaw-droppingly amazing. We deserve death, but God offers us LIFE! He offers a life that is also unending. It gives purpose for our life on this earth and promises a better life to come in a place more beautiful and amazing than we can imagine, and is without pain, suffering, sorrow, death. It will last forever!
Let that contrast settle for a minute. That is what God accomplished for us when Jesus died on the cross. He made a way to offer that gift of life to us. Our role? Like any gift, we are simply asked to accept it – to receive it. When we admit that we need a Savior and believe that Jesus IS that savior and choose to life for Him we will be saved (Romans 10.9). We all like to receive gifts. As a father of 3 amazing young girls – there is little in life more joyful than receiving a gift. So as we consider the gift God has given to us – the only logical response is to be filled with joy. Psalm 51 talks about the “joy of my salvation” Think about what Christ has done for you! Deserving of death and separation from God, He made a way to offer the gift of life. When we start to understand that our sin means we deserve death but Christ made it so we could know life instead. Even on our most rotten days, that fact can bring us joy!
2- A Joy Known is a Joy Shared – We read from the articles that Jones is excited to be in relationship with Jesus. He avidly reads his Bible and as you can see from this post on Mariners teammate Logan Bawcom’s facebook page, Jones is excited to share his testimony at a youth baseball camp. When we realize the gift we have been given of life instead of our deserved death, it makes sense to tell others about it. After a birthday or Christmas celebration, a commonly asked question is “what did you get?” And even if the question is not asked, we are often so excited, we are ready to share with anyone who will listen. How much more should we be ready to share about this amazing gift of life that God offers us. Not only can it make an eternal difference in the lives of those who hear us share our story, but it will also build our joy as again and again, we are reminded that God is really good and He really went to these great lengths to offer this amazing gift to us. Who is He leading you to share your story of His goodness with? Batter Up!