I love baseball! When I was a boy, I dreamed of playing baseball as I listened to Big League games on the radio. I’ve been a Phillies fan ever since I moved here, and it’s exciting to see our team in first place as they begin the second half of the season.

Along with many other long-time fans though, I remember the “good-ole-days,” when players played the game mostly because they loved baseball. Money, I think, has done a lot to spoil what many sports used to be. The average annual salary for a big-league baseball player was only $17,000 in 1965. Today it is over four million dollars! If that isn’t enough, they also get another $100 a day for meals when they play on the road.

Modern players don’t just play on diamonds. They can afford to wear them, too!

For a brief time in the spring of 1995, though, baseball was different. For the first few weeks of that pre-season, the players hustled up to the plate when it was their turn to bat. Close calls by the umpires were not questioned. The players arrived at the park early and stayed after the games until the groundskeepers threw them out. When the coach asked for volunteers to shag fly balls, a dozen hands would go up. The players thanked the fans for coming to watch; they thanked the umpires, and they even thanked those who washed their uniforms.

What made the difference? Those players were getting their first chance ever to play in the big leagues. The regular players continued to be on strike from the previous season. Because of it, the World Series had been canceled for the first time in 90 years. It had cost the players millions of dollars, and the owners had lost about 1 billion dollars, too. The owners were determined to open the new season on time, so they decided to hire those replacement players.

The replacement players were reportedly guaranteed $5,000 for reporting to spring training, and another $5,000 if they made the opening day roster. Bud Selig, the current Baseball Commissioner, declared that “We are committed to playing the 1995 season and will do so with the best players willing to play.”

The games did not sparkle with awesome plays, mind you. Line drives rarely got out of the infield, and the pitching was so slow that one coach quipped they didn’t even register on the radar gun. It wasn’t pretty, but the guys playing the game were ecstatic. They were thrilled about playing baseball, and it showed.

Why were these players so excited about playing? The replacement players weren’t on the field because they earned the right to be there. You could say that they didn’t deserve to play. They knew they weren’t good enough to be in the Big Leagues, but they were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually live out a dream. They weren’t picked to play because they were really good. They were picked to play because they wanted to do it. One well-to-do player actually offered any team a hundred thousand dollars if they would just sign him. He really wanted to play baseball!

We smile when we read about their enthusiasm. Perhaps it reminds us of that thrill we felt as young people when we were chosen to play on a neighborhood team.

There is an even bigger thrill to be had in this life, though.

Those of us who have come to God to have our sins forgiven have been chosen to be in His family—and that will last for eternity. (See Ephesians 1:3-6) Being picked to be on God’s team is much more important than playing baseball. The eternal benefits He offers are far greater than anything a millionaire can afford.

We Christians have something in common with those excited, replacement baseball players. We understand how unworthy we are. One of the things that the Bible makes clear is that we don’t deserve to go to heaven. None of us are good enough. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through

[Christ]” (Romans 5:6-9).

The replacement baseball players were excited. We can have a similar feeling. Those of us who have put our trust in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross to pay for our sins are rejoicing. What a thrill to have all our sins forgiven when we know how undeserving we are! “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult [delight] in hope of the glory of God . . . And not only this, but we also exult [delight] in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:1-2, 11).

There is nothing like the thrill of getting something wonderful that you don’t deserve, especially when that wonderful thing is the gift of eternal life from God.

Are you on God’s team? Have you admitted your need for forgiveness and trusted Christ’s work alone to make you a part of His family? It’s wonderful to belong to it. When you do, then you can know that Christ has selected you to be on His team. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

I’d love to hear from you! Please come to the website listed above and tell me what God is doing in your life.