Sports and The Savior

The Legend and The Lord: A Lesson From Nolan Ryan and the Savior

September 22nd, 1993. It’s a day that will live long in the memory of two boys and their Dad.

“I can’t believe it, Dad,” my oldest son said, “Nolan Ryan’s very last road game. This is history and we’re here to see it.”

“I know, Matthew. Seven no-hitters. Almost six thousand strike-outs. He pitched when I was a boy. This is awesome!”

“Where is he, Dad? Dad, I can’t see him.” My youngest son, Daniel, was almost frantic. He couldn’t bear the thought that he might miss something. His anxiety grew with every thought that number 34 would step from the dugout without his eyes fastened to the legend’s every move. The “Ryan Express” commanded too much of his respect for even one glimpse to go uncollected. So, with a reassuring smile and a gentle nudge in the right direction, I turned his head toward the visitors dugout. “Keep watching son, he’ll come out any moment now.”

Such were the thrilling minutes before the final game of Nolan Ryan’s legendary career. For much of the world, baseball means very little. Nolan Ryan means even less. For true fans, baseball means a great deal. Nolan Ryan means even more. The two go together like melody and lyrics. One is the song. The other the verse.

“Here they come, Dad! The Texas Rangers are coming out,” my oldest said.

“Where? Where are they, Dad? I can’t see them,” my youngest exclaimed.

The rest of the Texas Rangers took the field. I stood and began to applaud. “Dad,” the boys almost shouted, “why are you clapping? We don’t see him. Where is he, Dad?”

“He’ll be out soon boys. Come on. Stand up. He’s a living legend.”

The three of us stood there clapping. It seemed like eternity, but in reality it was but seconds. The anticipation was exhilarating. Suddenly, there he was, number 34, Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher of all time. All around us people began to stand. The ovation was thunderous, the moment spectacular, the spectacle frozen in time — a few seconds that shall never fade away.

For two boys and a dad those moments have created a bond stronger than time itself. The smell of popcorn and candy, the feel of a hundred thousand hands smacking together, the sound of Seattle’s Kingdome resounding with fifty thousand voices lifted in joyful cheer, and the sight of number 34 raising his hand in recognition and appreciation of our recognition and appreciation for him were meant just for us. The Legend is a man.

However, Nolan’s game is up. He was the greatest. Never mind that his last game ended bittersweet. Never mind that a torn ligament ended that game before even the first inning concluded. Never mind his last inning as the most awesome pitcher in the great game of baseball included a grand-slam against his record. Never mind, because he brought his own brand of greatness to the ball-park that evening. We’ll remember it. We’ll cherish it. We’ll talk of it. And, like all good stories, it will instruct us about life. My boys will learn something from those few moments with the Legend.

You see, my boys did not have many heroes. This old world offered them precious few. I always hoped that in days to come their lives would be filled with men and women who would inspire them. I could hope that as they became men they would model their lives after men and women who press forward, who work hard, and who demonstrate the goodness and kindness that Nolan Ryan had given us during four decades of major league greatness. I could hope that I would be for them such a model. Time will tell.

Yet, there was greatness already at work. Our brief moment in time with the Legend reminded us of something far better. There approaches a day when again we shall stand to applaud. Perhaps, if we are sensitive enough, we will once again stand to clap and shout before we see his face. This time, however, it will be more than applause. It will be worship. We shall shout and sing, “All hail King Jesus.” Only this time it will last. This time it will consume our very beings. This time it will be more than a brief moment in time. This time it will mean life, not memories. This time it will be the Lord, not the Legend.

Can you only imagine? Oh, dear friend, think about this…if Jesus is your Savior…well, here, let God’s word convey this truth for itself (Revelation 21:1-7)…

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’”

What? Are you kidding me?

The dwelling of God is with men?

There will be no more tears?

There will be no more death? No more mourning? No more crying? No more pain?

Me? Me? I will be his forevermore son?

Incredible! Amazing! My God, oh my God, thank you.

No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus these words: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).

The time is coming. Are you ready?

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