It was the top of the ninth inning, and tentions were running high. It looked like either team could win, and the people in the stands were going crazy. Both sides rooted for their team while yelling, dancing and waving shirts.
Tommy was in a wheelchair, and he would be undergoing surgery on his heart valve in a few days. He had really been looking forward to this game. In fact, it was all he could talk about for weeks. Pictures of the home team members lined the walls of his hospital room, and aside from his father, these baseball players were his biggest heroes.
Tickets to the game were expensive, though, and on top of the surgery’s cost, Tommy’s father just couldn’t afford them. So, with little hope, he contacted the Make a Wish Foundation, and he was pleasantly surprised by what happened next. They made all the arrangements on their end, and Tommy’s father signed all the papers, assuring the doctors that he wouldn’t let Tommy get too excited. Upon his release from the children’s hospital for a few hours, the Make a Wish Foundation had even sent a driver to pick up Tommy and his dad.
Now, with a toothless grin, Tommy sat on the edge of his seat, whispering to his father. “I just know my team is gonna win! They’ve just got to!”
“I’m sure they will, son.” His father squeezed his hand. “You just keep on rooting for them.”
When the baseball flew through the air and Tommy’s team made the final home run, everyone cheered and gave each other high fives. But in spite of the spirit of celebration, Tommy and his dad decided to leave early. By going down in the handicapped elavator, they were able to avoid the crowds and sneak out while the parking lot was still relatively empty of people.
As they drove away from the stadium, Tommy’s father let out a long whistle. “In another five minutes, that parking lot will be a zoo, but we got the jump on them.”
“Can we get some ice cream?” Tommy pleaded hopefully.
“Well …” His father looked at his watch, while ruffling Tommy’s hair. “I think we might be able to arrange that. We’ve got a few more minutes until I have to drop you off at the hospital. Let’s celebrate!”
Before his father could remind Tommy to stay calm he shouted, “Oh, boy!”
Pulling over to the curb, his father tried to act stern, but with a twinkle in his eye, he told Tommy to settle down.
The rest of that night with his father had been great. In fact, Tommy didn’t think things could get any better.
The next day, however, an unexpected visitor knocked at the door of Tommy’s room. Thinking it was a nurse, Tommy called out in a bored voice, “Come in.”
When the door opened, the little boy’s eyes widened, and he gasped out loud. He saw that the person entering the room was none other than his home run-hitting hero from the night before. It was all he could do not to shout for joy. But before Tommy could get a word out, the MVP began.
“Tommy, the team heard about you on Facebook. Everyone wanted to stop by, but since the game went into extra innings last night, we couldn’t do that. So, here I am with autographs from everybody.”
“Oh, wow! Cool autographs! You really creamed the other team last night! You’re my favorite.”
The baseball player just smiled at this, and he and the little boy made some small talk.
After about 15 minutes, the MVP held up his hand.
“Thanks for being such a great fan, but I have to tell you something. There are more important things in life than winning.”
“What do you mean?” Tommy asked, puzzled.
“Tommy, I want you to remember something. When you win, everybody is a fan. But when you lose, you see who your friends really are.” Tommy started to speak, but the man held up his hand again.
“I don’t know if you know this, Tommy, but I am a Christian, and I want to tell you a story.”
“Cool!” Tommy said enthusiastically. “I like stories.”
“Well, a long time ago, God sent down His son, Jesus, to show people how they can come back to Him.”
“Oh, yeah,” Tommy interrupted. “I heard about Him in Sunday school. My teacher said that He died and rose again, so that people who believe in Him can be with Him forever.”
“That’s right, Tommy, but I haven’t got much time, so you can’t talk until I’m done, if you want a story.”
When Tommy nodded, the baseball star began again.
“Jesus lived so long ago that there weren’t even any McDonald’s restaurants, and the people He was with were very hungry. But there was a little boy there, and I think he was about your age. Anyway, this boy had brought his lunch. Jesus took the little boy’s lunch and prayed to God, and then He gave all those thousands of people in the crowd as much as they wanted to eat.
“Jesus did some other cool things, too, but soon the crowd turned away, because they wanted to find God on their own. They were like the fans at the game last night. As long as they were full and felt good, they were satisfied to follow Jesus.
“But later on, when the people who didn’t want to be His fans anymore deserted Him, Jesus asked His twelve friends, ‘You don’t want to go away, too, do you?’
“Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'” (John 6:67-68, NIV)
Just then, a nurse came in, smiling. “I hate to break this up, but I think you’d better get some rest, Tommy.”
So, encouraging Tommy to think about what he had said, the player walked out.
Now, the question implied by the baseball player is directed at you. When times become challenging, are you a fan, who only follows Jesus when things are rosey? Or are you a friend, committed to the God who suffered and gave His all for you?
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 6:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 313-209-8800. Our PIN is 8699032. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.