Improving Your Life’s Batting Average
By Ed Delph
July 19, 2021
Years ago, a great teacher named Bob Mumford had this thought. He said, “If you want to increase your batting average, you have to stop swinging at every pitch that comes over the plate.” A good baseball player watches for that perfect pitch and then swings for good results. Apply the same strategy to your life. Most people today are swinging in all directions - but they are swinging without a strategy. If you only swung at the ball intended for you to knock out of the park, you would be a Hall of Famer.
Let’s explore a strategy for improving your life’s batting average. One pitch that is thrown to us continually is the pitch of temptations. Why? Because we will swing almost every time at the temptation pitch and strike out. Consider the story below.
A boy was told by his father not to go swimming. When his father caught him in the water, the boy said, "I didn't mean to do it." "Then why do you have your swimsuit with you?" he was asked. "I brought it along in case I was tempted," was the reply. When a man doesn't listen to his conscience, he usually doesn't want to take advice from a stranger.
Let me confess something to you. I wouldn't say I like to write about behavior. Most times, it seems the only thing pastors and churches talk about is behavior. Don’t get me wrong. Behavior is important. Why? The next step after ‘Lead us not into temptation' is 'deliver us from evil.' The problem is not temptation. We all have temptations. The problem is giving in to temptations whose fruit is debilitating consequences.
In the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ doesn’t mean God leads us into temptation. It means precisely the opposite. Jesus was saying, "Lord, help me make wise decisions today. Empower me to overcome temptation, not be overcome by temptations. For example, don't let me bring any swimsuits today. If given a chance, I will hurt myself and then injure others too.
Behavior and how we conduct ourselves are essential. It could determine our destiny. The problem is how we, in the church and other institutions, address others' behavior. So many times, it comes across as condemnation, not liberation. It's more legislation than transformation. It’s like locking a robber in jail and then bragging about how he is not robbing banks anymore. Unless there is a fundamental transformation, that robber is still robbing banks on the inside. He just doesn't have the opportunity to do what's still in him. He knows it is illegal to rob a bank. He doesn't understand why.
Legislation (the Law) is ‘Thou shalt and Thou shalt not.’ Transformation (Grace) comes from an “Aha moment” of why 'Thou shalt and Thou shalt not.' It sees why it's wiser not to do something and to do another. It's not throwing the book at somebody and shouting, "Behave yourself!" with no choice or empowerment. Consider this horse trainer tip from Pastor Randy Helm. “A good horse trainer can get a horse to change. A great horse trainer gets the horse to want to change.” The same is true of people.
May I suggest a more empowering, more liberating, Biblical approach to making choices that lead us not into temptation? If there is a doubtful issue in your life, something with a mental question mark after it, put it through the Four E’s test. If your problem clears these four tests, it should no longer be a problem.
The following is the Four E’s test for your consideration. God gave us the Four E's test for a reason. It matters! It's a God-empowered strategy, not a law-driven strategy, changing behavior from the inside-out, not the outside-in.
The Test of Expediency in I Corinthians 6:12. It may even be good, but is it good for me to do? The Message Bible says: “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it is spiritually or morally appropriate.” Another version says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.”
Expediency is defined as someone or something appropriate for a situation but generally doing it for selfish reasons. It would be like a politician giving a position to someone because they gave to their campaign. It's legal, but generally, that supporter will not be the best person for the post. So if your temptation is to do the political thing rather than the best thing, it did not pass the test of expediency.
The Test of Enslavement in I Corinthians 6:12. Could making this decision enslave me? Could it become an addiction? Could it lead others into an addiction? The Message Bible says: “If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.” Another version says: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Remember, you are to be the head and not the tail. If something could enslave you, if you are weak in that area, be wise, it's not for you. The real question to ask yourself about any decision is, “Is this wise?” Not, “Is it legal?” It’s wiser to choose freedom from an affair than to choose the legal right for an affair.
The Test of Edification in I Corinthians 10:23. Does doing this build me or others up, or tear me or others down? To edify means to instruct someone in a way that enlightens them or uplifts them morally, spiritually, or intellectually. The Bible says: All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Ask yourself: “Does what I am considering doing cause me, my family, my friends, and my community to survive or to thrive in their souls? If it doesn’t, don’t do it. It failed the edification test.
The Test of Example in I Corinthians 8. Could what I am doing cause others to stumble? Could this be a bad example to someone weak in the area I'm taking liberty in? Does what I am doing give people an accurate sample of a thriving person in their soul? Remember, what you do affects others positively or negatively.
There you go. Christians, we don’t need to shoot Bible-bullets at people. Just give them you, being you, with Christ all over you, living by the Four-E strategy. And to the whole world, you will improve your life’s batting average by applying the Four Es strategy to every life situation you find yourselves in. If you throw away that swimsuit, you’ll hit it out of the park.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com