“But encourage one another every day, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3:13-14
On the day before Easter, my family enjoyed a fun day together at Target Field watching Ervin Santana pitch a one-hit gem as our beloved Twins bested the dreaded Chicago White Sox 6-0. What a great game! Baseball fever was back in the air, as a least a few Twins fans dared to again set hopes on a winning season, pennant run, and, who knows, maybe even another World Series!
Sitting in the stands that day, I couldn’t help but reflect on a previous Chicago White Sox team. That 1919 squad seemed unstoppable in their bid for a World Series title. With the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson and star knuckleball pitcher Eddie Cicotte anchoring their roster, the White Sox were considered the greatest team ever assembled to that point.
When the Cincinnati Reds defeated the heavily favored White Sox 10-5 to clinch a very unlikely World Series win, rumors of a fix swirled. In the months that followed, the sad truth (“Say it ain’t so, Joe!”) came to light that gamblers had paid off several Sox players to intentionally lose games. Eight players, including Cicotte and the great Shoeless Joe, were banned from baseball for life in what became known as the “Black Sox Scandal.”
How in the world could a dominant team be persuaded to throw away their opportunity for a World Series victory? DISCOURAGEMENT.
The movie Eight Men Out (1988) reconstructs the motives and backgrounds of the players and the conditions that made the improbable fix all too possible. One key factor involved a promise that White Sox team owner, Charles Comiskey, made to Cicotte to pay him a $10,000 bonus should he win 30 games. But when the righty neared that milestone, Comiskey ordered the manager to bench his ace for two weeks under the ruse of “resting” the 35-year-old veteran’s arm for the Series. Finishing the season with a 29-7 win-loss record, discouragement and revenge got the upper hand. Gamblers got wind of the players’ discontent and offered them more money to play badly than they would get winning the World Series. In the end, everyone lost, except the Reds and the bookies.
The biggest losers, of course, were the players themselves. Remember this from the Field of Dreams (1989)? “If you build it, they will come …” The film fictitiously depicts these “Black Sox” players coming out of an Iowan cornfield for a chance, at long last, to once again play the game they loved.
Hebrews 3 reminds us all of our need for daily encouragement. Why? “So that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We are all prone to lose heart in moments of grief, loss, disappointment, a lengthy illness, setbacks, failure, and disillusionment. Scripture speaks often of responses and decisions made from “a hardened heart.” Places of doubt, discouragement, despair and desperation become the breeding grounds for the scandalous way the enemy works his way into a believer’s heart, persuading us to sell out victory for a deal that never pays up.
I recently read how the muscle of a clam causes it to close tight when it feels threatened. Only when the threat passes will the muscle relax and allow the clam to open again. This reaction to “clam up” is normally a healthy protection. However, if the hard muscle never relaxes and re-opens, the clam will eventually die because it cannot take in food and nourishment. What an insightful picture of what happens when our own human hearts become threatened. Unless our fears, threats, and discouragement are softened and healed with hope, our hearts harden … “leading us to fall away from the living God,” as Hebrews 3:12 warns.
So, how do we respond when we feel threatened and sense the muscle of our hearts “clamming up”? Hebrews 3:14 reminds us to hold onto our confidence in Christ – to remember WHO He is and WHAT He has promised. He is faithful.
WHAT IF … someone had encouraged Eddie Cicotte in his darkest hour to forget about Comiskey and just play the game?
WHAT IF … someone had helped Eddie set his eyes on a bigger prize, a greater hope, for a victory that could not be snatched away?
WHAT IF … in those situations when we are prone to discouragement or having our hearts “clam up” with a hardness of doubt or disillusionment, we instead purpose to keep our confidence on Christ?
WHAT IF … we took time today to exhort and encourage those around us in their moments of need? Perhaps we can help a fellow team player snatch victory out of the hands of discouragement.
NEED ENCOURAGEMENT? Call Camp at 320.573.2125. We would be more than happy to pray with you and connect you to people and resources that can help.