Jesus and Bazball
In case you’ve missed it, the 2023 Ashes is upon us. Australia visit England in a much-anticipated ‘best-of-5’ battle for the prized terracotta urn.
In case you don’t follow cricket (don’t worry, I’ll be brief…) English cricket has undergone something of a revolution following the appointment of Ben Stokes as captain and Brendon McCullum as coach. Gone are the days of careful, patient dotting, dabbing and defensive blocking. Now, aggressive, front-foot shots are the order of the day; ‘Bazball’ is the name given to the new approach. It’s literally transformed how we play the game, and seen records smashed.
In the build-up to the Ashes, debate centred on whether or not ‘Bazball’ could stand up to its most rigorous test – the old enemy, the Aussies? Or would the steely grit of the Baggy Greens prove enough to burst the ‘Bazball’ bubble? Time will tell.
However, listening to the build-up on the radio, something triggered a thought. The pundit was reflecting on how previously England’s opening three batters were inconsistent in their performances, scoring low numbers and getting out easily. The reason, they suggested, was that they were playing with the fear of losing their place. One poor performance and they would be dropped. Sure enough, faces came and went; there was never any stability to the opening partnerships. Their place was never secure and the uncertainty fed into some underwhelming performances. Since ‘Bazball’ was introduced, though, things had changed. Stokes and McCullom have backed their openers. They have told them their position is safe; no bad performance will get them out of the team. They are secure. The result? A huge upturn in results flowing from a new-found confidence because the fear of being dropped is gone.
Why am I telling you all this?
I see a lesson for us to learn: That for as long as we live with the fear of whether or not our place in God’s family is settled, we falter and wobble in our obedience. Our felt need to ‘play for our place’ in God’s affection – to secure his approval by our latest good performance - leads to a cagey, tentative demonstration of our following him. Our obedience falters because it comes from fear, not faith.
The good news of Jesus is at least that we are loved unconditionally and accepted once-and-for-all by God. This good news – the Gospel – means those who trust in Jesus are adopted into God’s family. The orphan finds a home; the reject finds acceptance. Our place is secure.
And this good news is free. It does not hinge one jot on our performance or our contribution. It doesn’t hang in the balance. It doesn’t remain to be seen. It’s settled. It’s a done deal that cannot be undone.
You might find yourself feeling stuck in certain ways of thinking and acting that lead to a crippling fear: What if God no longer loves me? What if I’ve sinned one too many times? This feeds into your thinking and your outlook, causing further capitulation. Your confidence in your place erodes. You cross your fingers and hope you’re still in the side when the next team sheet is published.
Here's the reality: God has accepted you in Christ Jesus. You contributed nothing; he did it all. You’re accepted, you’re loved and you’re in the family. Nothing can change that. Now… live out of that unchanging and unchangeable truth.
Pause for a moment and consider the Apostle John’s words:
What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. (1 John 3:1, italics mine)
Your position is secure. Your place in the team is not at risk.
Trust and relax then see what a difference it makes.
‘Bazball’ may excite the fans and an Ashes win will delight the crowds for the summer, but the settled issue of adoption as God’s children is a daily delight that continually assures our often-anxious hearts.
PS - Come on England!
*Blog only written after day one of the first test!