The Stripes of a Champion©

 

Written and Illustrated by De Dorman
© 2005 All Rights Reserved

Hebrews 4:15b- “but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”

James was an All-American boy who loved baseball and dreamed of the day that he could be a part of his school’s winning team, so this is where you can find James each evening, hitting the ball and running the bases in his back yard. Dad often coaches his son as he pitches the ball, encouraging him each time he takes a swing, “That’s my champ!” he usually says as he chases the ball.

“This could be the year that I finally get to play!” James said as he waited for a pitch.

“Just give it your best shot, son! You sure have a mighty swing!” Dad assured his eight year old as the ball rolled behind him. He missed again! This year’s tryouts were only a week away. Would he be ready?

“Maybe I shouldn’t even try out.” doubted James as he threw the ball back. “I’m not much better than last year. I guess being the batboy again won’t be so bad.”

As they were heading inside for supper, Mrs. Peterson, their neighbor, came and invited James to her back yard Bible Club, just as she did in previous summers. He never seemed to have the time to go, however, because the meeting time always interfered with game time. She made it a special point to mention, “This year we’re going to learn how to be a champion!”” The caring neighbor knew how much making the ball team meant to James and was hoping that this topic might interest him enough to come and hear about the Greatest Champion of all.

James was a bit curious and wondered if Mrs. Peterson knew something that would help him make the team.

“Hmm…a champion?” he asked. “Well, do you think it will help me become a better ball player?”

As she thanked Dad for taking the time to listen, she looked over at the red haired boy and said, “Come and see. The Club starts this Tuesday at 7:00. We’ll have games, stories and refreshments. Hope you can make it!” With that, Mrs. Peterson walked back to her yard, but continued to pray for the boy.

“OK, thanks.” James said with a wave of his hand as he headed inside.

“What do you think about that, Dad?” James asked.

“Well, the Peterson’s are a nice family. If you want to go to the Bible Club, that OK with me. Now, let’s go eat, I’m hungry!” Dad said as he patted his son on the back.

After great thought, James concluded that since baseball tryouts weren’t until Thursday, he could go on Tuesday night to hear what Mrs. Peterson had to say about being a champion.

Tuesday evening came and James and the other neighborhood children who came were pleasantly surprised when they walked into Mrs. Peterson’s back yard. Red, white and blue striped banners were hung all around the patio with trophies and plaques setting on the table.

“Wow, seeing these stripes makes me want to be a champion!” José said. The other children nodded, touching and reading everything as they made their way to the chairs.

Mrs. Peterson began with a word of prayer, and as she lifted her head, she asked the children this question…

“How many of you boys and girls want to become a champion?” It was no surprise to her that every child raised his hand. The next question brought a loud response. “In what area do you want to be a champion?”

Some shouted, “Wrestling, soccer, swimming!” and several more, James included, shouted out “baseball!”

“Can anyone tell me what it takes to be a champion?” she then asked.

“Havin’ big muscles!” Tyler replied as he flexed his arms to show the children. Annette, who was sitting nearby, giggled as she looked on.

“That’s a good answer, Tyler.” encouraged the teacher. “Let’s say that a champion needs to be strong.”

“How about practicing, even when you don’t feel like it?” responded Tina, who happens to take piano lessons.

Mrs. Peterson nodded at that reply and commented, “We’ll say that a champion also needs to be faithful, or steadfast.”

“Now, tell me,” she began, “how can you recognize a champion when you see one?” Several boys pointed to the stripes on their clothes, signifying that they were already champions, at least in their own eyes!

Smiling as she continued, she said, “These are all excellent replies, boys and girls! So what you’ve tols me is that in order to be a champion, you need to be strong, steadfast and striped! They all nodded in agreement as she reached for her Bible.

“This evening, we’re going to look at a Champion who all these characteristics and more. He has many titles…Conqueror, Prince of Peace, Captain, just to name a few. Does anyone Who this Person is?”

“Jesus!” they all replied in unison.

“Very good!” Since Tyler said that it takes big muscles to make a champion, let’s see how stron g Jesus is.”

James was getting more curious and paid close attention to Mrs. Peterson as she read from the book of Luke (Luke 4:1-12) and a verse in Hebrews (4:15).

“Jesus resisted the temptations from the devil and never sinned. Is anybody here that strong?” challenged the teacher.

James was certain that he has never sinned until Mrs. Peterson continued by asking the children if they always obeyed their parents. Instantly, he recalled a few times that he was just too busy to clean his room, like Mom had asked him to do. With his head lowered a bit, he listened on as she quoted Ephesians 6:1 which says…”Children obey your parents..”

The caring teacher continued by saying, “The Bible, which was written by God, says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 3:23 and 6:23)

Even in the beginning, the first man and woman who God placed in the Garden of Eden,, disobeyed their Creator. But Jesus, when He was tempted, never gave in to temptation. His Father was so pleased with him! (Matthew 17:5 says, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”) “So”, she concluded, “would you all agree that this Champion is strong?”

Once again, the children were all in unity and nodded, “Yes.”

Mrs. Peterson then asked, “Now what else was mentioned that it takes to be a champion?” Oh, yes, steadfastness, or faithfulness.” She began to tell the children how the angry people spit on Jesus, slapped Him and made fun of Him. (Isaiah 53:5) All the while they were doing this, He took our stripes, our punishment. He never once hit them or said an unkind thing to them. (Matthew 27:27-32) There were times when He got tired, hungry and thirsty but He knew that His whole purpose for coming to this sinful earth was to die on the cross, even for the people who were being so cruel to Him. (I Timothy 1:15) He kept walking all the way to Calvary, and when he arrived, He laid down His life on the cross. Nobody made Him do it, He freely gave Himself for the sins of the world. He was the only acceptable sacrifice to God, because He was sinless and perfect from the beginning.”

The children could see a little of the pain that Jesus suffered as the teacher continued. “When He gave up His life on the cross, the soldiers took His body down and placed it in the tomb; and because of what happened next, He became The Greatest Conqueror of all!”

“I know, I know!” exclaimed one of the children who was unable to keep the good news to himself. “He came back alive!”

“Excellent! He did indeed!” the joyful teacher stated. “ After taking our stripes by shedding His sinless red blood and being beaten until blue bruises throbbed with pain, He willingly offers to anyone who will trust in His finished work, a clean white heart. (I John 1:9 and Psalm 51:7b) You, too, can live eternally with Him in Heaven. Without receiving this great gift of love, we will be eternally separated from a Holy God: but His great love for us has made a way to be reunited to Him. ( Romans 10:9,10 and 13)

Mrs. Peterson reminded the children that He is called “The Captain” and,” she added, “Everyone on His team is a winner!”

James felt a tugging at his heart. He now saw clearly that he was a sinner, but wondered why such a mighty God wanted him on His team. “I can’t even make the baseball team.” He thought to himself.

In closing the bible lesson, Mrs. Peterson picked up a nearby plaque while assuring the children that God knew each child and had a wonderful plan for every one of them, the first step being salvation.

She then read…

“Only one life

T’will soon be passed,

Only what’s done

For Christ will last.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a fast runner or slow, or if your room is lined with ribbons and awards, or there are none at all; when you become a part of God’s team, you’re a winner! He will help you to walk with him and your eternal rewards will be waiting for you in Heaven!”

When James heard this, he knew that he wanted to be on God’s team. So, as the refreshments were being served, he quietly walked over to Mrs. Peterson and told her of his desire. These words touched the concerned neighbor’s heart, so as Mr. Peterson helped out with the snacks, she directed James to a nearby chair. With her Bible in hand, she reviewed some verses and saw that James understood his need of forgiveness. When given the opportunity, James bowed his head and humbly prayed, asking The Lord to forgive him for all the sins that he had committed and to help him be strong and steadfast like His Son, Jesus. Before closing he said, “and thank you that even though I’m not the best, You let me on Your team.” At that moment, James was placed on the winning team and The Lord would walk with him, coaching him to become a champion, too!

Before leaving he thanked his kind neighbor for inviting him to her Bible Club.

“You’re very welcome, James.” She stated as she handed him a flyer from her church. “I’ll be praying for you and we hope you can make it to Sunday School this week.”

He waved and nodded as he headed back home.

“I do feel all clean inside.” He said to himself.

Seeing the bat and ball in the yard reminded him of the tryouts in a few days and suddenly he realized that it didn’t mean all that much to him now if he made the team or not. After all, he was already on the winning team! What could be better than that?

Invitation:

Boys and girls, are you trying to be the fastest, the smartest and the best, only to be left feeling defeated? God loves you and will accept you, just as you are. He has a wonderful plan for your life and wants you to succeed as a champion for Him! Won’t you come on over to the winning team?

Invitation to service:

If you already are on the winning team, are you obeying your Coach? He will never lead you down the wrong path, but you have to be willing to follow. Read His Word, talk to Him and obey Him; then you, too, will be learning how to be strong, steadfast and striped …with rewards in Heaven that wait for the obedient champion!

Special thanks go out to all the caring neighbors who reach out to their community with the gospel. God bless you all richly with His peace and joy!

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