As many of you know, our family has been a baseball family for 25 years. I’ve had the privilege of coaching each of our boys through their various stages of the game throughout their growing up years. I can’t even begin to imagine how many baseballs I’ve thrown – not just to my guys, but to their (literally, hundreds of) teammates over those years. If you know much about baseball, you’re well aware that pitching is the key. As they say, “great pitching always beats great hitting.”
I was thinking about that the other day and I was reminded that all great pitchers have a “go-to” pitch. The “go-to” pitch is the one that they have absolute confidence they can throw for a strike in a crucial situation. A pitcher’s “go-to” pitch may be a 2-seam fastball, a 4-seam fastball, a curve, a slider, a change-up, and so on.
Not only does a pitcher have a “go-to” pitch, but a coach usually has a “go-to” play.
This truth extends far beyond baseball. In a football game for example, if a team simply has to gain a yard to get a first down in a crucial situation, or has one play that can win the game, the coach almost always has a “go-to” play. You may recall that in the famous movie “Hoosiers,” the fill-in coach (played by Dennis Hopper) of that small Indiana High School basketball team went to his “go-to” play he called the “picket fence” and won the game.
I know I’ve probably lost those of you who have no interest in sports, but just in case you’re still with me, let me remind you that there are other areas of life in which we have exercise the “go to” approach. My “go to” meal – the one I know I can prepare in a moment’s notice, on that rare and frightful occasion when my wife is sick, out of town, out with a friend, etc., is taco salad.
My sons know that if their mom is not on location, we’re probably having taco salad. It couldn’t be easier to prepare and, at times, it actually tastes good! Of course as my sons grow up and lead their own families, they may never want to eat another taco salad…but we survive, and isn’t that all that matters?
The “go to” principle exists in all of life if you think about it. What’s the “go to” for a kid in school who didn’t get his homework done?
“The dog ate it!”
Now, who can argue with that? When I was in high school, we had a train that would slowly traverse through the middle of our little town a couple times a day bringing traffic to a standstill. It serviced the largest business in town, the now defunct Simpson Lumber Company. Guess what every kid in high school claimed when he or she was late for class? You got it!
“I got stuck behind the train.”
It didn’t matter if it wasn’t true…it worked! I was the son of the principal and I even used it once! It was our “go to” excuse!
I was thinking about our “go to’s” the other day when I was reading about Moses. Early on in the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the people were complaining about not having water. As a result, God told Moses to go and strike a certain rock with his staff, and wallah, what came from the rock? Pure Artesian H2O (loose translation) which was probably as cool as the other side of the pillow.
Toward the end of their 40-year journey going nowhere fast, the complaint over lack of water re-surfaced. This time however, God didn’t tell Moses to strike the rock. Instead, He told him to “talk to the rock.” Hmm…talk to the rock…rock talk. I’ve talked to people with whom I felt like I was talking to a rock, but I can’t truly say I’ve ever talked to a rock.
This must be somewhat similar to what Moses was thinking, because instead of talking to the rock, he assumed (I’m guessing) that what God actually meant was that he should, once again, strike the rock (God loves it when we assume He means something other than what He said). So, instead of talking to the rock as God commanded, Moses called upon his previous personal experience and struck the rock. Wallah – once again, water came gushing out.
The people loved it, saying something like, “These guys rock!” So Moses was right, God said one thing, but truly meant something else…or did He?
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Ouch! That smarts more than a little!
For 40 years, Moses and his “broseph” had wanted and dreamed of nothing more than leading these brats into the promised land. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, poof! It was gone. The privilege of entering the promised land was taken from these guys. You see, the immediate desire was met, but the long-range goal was sacrificed!
For Moses, his “go to” was his experience. Experience had taught him that striking the rock is how it works. His personal experience had taught him how to meet the immediate need. It’s what seemed to be the most practical way to deal with this dilemma. In this case, Moses’ personal experience trumped God’s command.
“For Moses, his “go-to” was his experience.”
Moses isn’t alone in this catastrophic way of thinking, is he? How many times have you and I decided that God didn’t mean what He said? We make that tragic decision because whatever it is that God is telling us to do runs contrary to our personal experience. Our personal experiences trump God’s commands and for the moment, as Mo and Aaron experienced, it may work out okay. Then comes the shock.
We miss out on God’s blessing! We misfire on the long-range plan God has for our lives. I believe that most of us are plagued with this process and we seem to never learn. I’ve talked to scores of people over the last 35 years of ministry in regard to personal decisions – often relationship-type decisions. I unashamedly tell them what God’s Word clearly says and they unashamedly respond with, “But my experience is different.”
In the end, they USUALLY choose to follow their own experience instead of God’s command. Following their personal experience is their “go to” in times of dilemmas and big decisions as well as daily decisions. Granted, in the short term they may sip from the Aquafina bottle of life, but in the process, long-term-thirst-quenching-satisfaction and Kingdom-effectiveness are sacrificed.
What’s your “go to”? Is it God’s commands or your experience?