The vendors at the baseball games herald their goods, making sure all in earshot know they can purchase what they are selling. “Peanuts, get your peanuts!” is one of my favorite vendor calls while watching a baseball game. One of my favorite calls from the baseball announcer is “It’s outta here!” The hitter has just connected on a long blast that clears the outfield fence piling up the runs on the scoreboard very quickly. When the big hitters come to the plate, the announcer sometimes states, “this game can change with one swing of the bat.” It’s very exciting when it does (at least when it’s not the opposing team’s hitter hitting the home run).
We continued our Curveball sermon series on the life of Joseph this past Sunday, and we saw Joseph and his brothers finally meet again after 20 years. Through a number of curveballs Joseph himself throws, we learn that the brothers are repentant. Judah’s impassioned speech and willingness to take Benjamin’s place as a slave had a huge impact on Joseph and it showed that the brothers’ hearts truly had changed.
Joseph revealed himself to the brothers and they were “terrified” in his presence. Joseph faced one last curveball; how would he treat his brothers? Would he swing and miss or would he hit the game-winning homerun? Put yourself in the brothers’ sandals. What would you be thinking? “We did Joseph wrong, we closed our ears to his pleas for mercy and sold him into slavery! We have no shot, we are done for, game over.” What they didn’t know is that God had been working in Joseph’s heart for over two decades, allowing Joseph to see the rotation of the curveball as it was pitched so he could hit it out of the park. It’s as if he was not focused on his brothers’ betrayal at all, for Joseph repeated four times that it was God who had sent him to Egypt and placed him in the position he was currently in. Oh yes, Joseph had scars. He was wronged and he endured many difficulties, yet he was able to look to God, the One who was always with him. He showed his brothers much grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
You and I have both wronged others. Have you ever hoped, as the brothers had hoped, that somehow they might be forgiven? This same hope can be realized through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All our sins can be cared for by Jesus’ payment on the cross. Will we go to Him with a humble heart and receive the grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness that He freely offers? This truth is communicated in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
What was Joseph’s secret to hitting the curveball? Joseph was willing to humble himself under the mighty hand of God and do things God’s way, even when it impacted him deeply and personally.
Interestingly, some 2,000 years later, the Apostle Paul discovered the same secret. Listen to what he writes in Philippians 4:11–13:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Jesus himself knew and lived this same secret:
1 Peter 2:23 …and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously…
When the curveballs of life come at us—just like they did for Joseph, Paul, Jesus, and so many others before us—we too can honor God in the midst of difficulties, the wrongs we suffer, and the challenges of life. The question is whether or not our focus will be on our painful circumstances and on those who hurt us. If it is, we will become angry and bitter. Will we entrust ourselves to God, who judges righteously, and hear “It’s outta here” as we show grace, mercy, and compassion towards those who hurt us?
Gary Webb is the Adult Ministries Pastor. He and his wife, Beth, were transferred down to Columbus from Toledo in 1988 while he worked for UPS. Gary worked as an engineer for over 12 years for UPS and Children’s Hospital. During those years the Webbs became involved at Grace. He joined the pastoral staff in 2000. Gary studied engineering (University of Toledo) and theology (Grace Seminary). Gary enjoys coaching, running, biking, swimming and hiking. Gary and Beth have three adult children and three grandchildren.