What gifts will you use for God?

Published 9:58 pm Friday, August 3, 2018

By Thurman Hayes

Recently we had a few days at the Outer Banks, and those few days turned out to include almost non-stop torrential rain.

Of course, that is less than ideal for a week at the beach, but for someone who can find contentment in a coffee shop with some good books, a few rainy days are not so bad.

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Usually at the beach, I’ll do some reading that is not overly heavy, yet nourishing to my soul. This year, I found just such a book in “The Closer,” by Yankees great Mariano Rivera.

For those of you who don’t follow baseball, Mariano was one of the greatest pitchers ever to “toe the rubber.” Next year, he will be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame, and when he gives his induction speech, he will give all the glory to God.

That’s what made “The Closer” such an inspiring read. Rivera is not one of those athletes who just casually says “I want to give all the credit to God.” He actually means it. The result is a memoir that will appeal to people, whether they follow baseball or not.

Mariano’s story is amazing. Raised in a poor fishing village in Panama, he started playing baseball by throwing rocks, converting milk cartons into baseball gloves, and sticks into bats. As a teenager, a cousin shared the good news about Jesus with Mariano, and he became a follower of Christ. Little did he know the plans God had for him, or the gifts he would give Him.

In his first tryout for scouts, Rivera was attempting to pitch for only the second time in his life, yet he found that he had an amazing ability to control the ball, hitting his target with ease. He was signed by the Yankees and sent to the minor leagues, where he describes what happened:

“All around me I see guys who are stronger than me and throw harder than me, and I am outperforming nearly all of them. It is almost an out-of-body experience. How on earth am I doing this?” Mariano knew it was the work of the Lord.

Then, while still in the minors, his velocity jumped from 90 miles per hour to 96 — in one day. He wasn’t trying to throw any harder. How did this happen? There is no explanation apart from the gift of God.

But perhaps the most stunning touch from the Lord occurred a couple of years into his Yankees career, when Rivera was playing catch with one of his teammates. Suddenly, his pitches began to move and dart in a way they never had before. He was not trying to throw the ball any differently; he wasn’t gripping it any differently; but the ball was “cutting” in a way that made it almost impossible for batters to hit!

Mariano says, “I do not spend years searching for this pitch. I do not ask for it, or pray for it. All of a sudden it is there, a devastating baseball weapon. Why does this happen? I don’t know the answers, except to say that the Lord must’ve had a plan, because He always has a plan. And it is some plan.”

Friend, he has a plan for you. God has given you some gifts. Will you use them for his glory?

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.