With all the excitement of the recent World Series (Go Astros!), there was a phrase that was occasionally used by the game announcers. As a few players would step into the batters’ box, the announcers would say that they had been “struggling at the plate.”
This phrase referred to the fact that this player was in a hitting slump. Their batting average was falling because they could not get any hits. It is true that even the best baseball players go through a period of weakness at bat. And it will take a concentrated effort to end the slump, and get back to playing well.
The phrase “struggle at the plate,” reminded me of several plates that can cause even the strongest Christian to struggle.
Here are some examples:
1. The struggle at home plate – Keeping a strong marriage and a happy family is not easy. Every day there are new distractions, adverse complications, and alluring temptations. It seems like the forces of the enemy are out to upset the harmony of the home. Home plate is fractured in America. It will take a deep commitment to your spouse and the Lord to keep it all together.
2. The struggle at the offering plate – When a person spends all of their money on themselves, they have nothing left for God. Most Christians know to tithe. They have been taught that the first tenth of their income belongs to God. And there is a blessing for those who give in a cheerful manner. It has been said that in a typical church, 5% of givers account for 56% of the income. What’s wrong? Giving is a maturity issue. By cheating God, they end up cheating themselves out of the many blessings God has in store for them. Sad.
3. The struggle with the license plate – Each year in the USA, 41 million people get a speeding ticket, and pay a total of $6 Billion in fines. Many good people abuse the privilege of driving by tailgating, speeding, texting while driving, unsafe lane changes, failing to signal, and being otherwise distracted. Auto accidents kill too many good people. But even a minor accident can cost thousands of dollars for repairs, loss of vehicle, and possible tickets and fines. Wake up and drive carefully. The life you save may be your own.
4. The struggle at the dinner plate – Christians are known for going out to eat after a church banquet! Most may not get drunk, shoot dope, or commit adultery, but surfeiting is a fine art. Our Pot Luck dinners are extraordinary. Home Bible studies must wait for us to clean our plates. In the Biblical Corinth, the Believers even turned the Lord’s Supper into a hedonistic feast! Too many Christians have shunned all the sins but gluttony. This needs attention.
5. The struggle at the petri plate – Named after German bacteriologist Julius Petri, this shallow cylindrical plate (or dish) is used by scientists in various experiments. Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist, once said about culture experiments, “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.” This is true in life. Sometimes we experiment in forbidden areas. We try new things, questionable things. These experiments can bring discouragement or failure. It causes us to struggle and sometimes fail.
But consider the good news in 1 Peter 5:10 ESV, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Friends, you may be struggling at a plate, but Christ is able to see you through and make you victorious. Don’t quit! “For those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)