Faith Matters: God won’t always give us a winning season. But we must never lose faith

The Tampa Bay Rays have said that they might have to play half of their home games in Montreal to survive as a franchise.

It doesn’t take a genius to guess their motivation: attendance.

Though the Rays don’t have the worst attendance record in baseball, they do have the second worst — a statistic, of which, they are none too proud.

Everyone has a theory. Some point to the location of the stadium, ticket prices or the cost of parking and concessions. But the cost of attending games in other cities is higher and those teams don’t have a problem filling their stadiums.

I think the problem is simpler than that. I think the answer lies in their record. People like watching an established winning team.

Now, before you start sending me hate mail, consider these numbers. Through 54 games at Tropicana Field, the Rays are averaging 15,602 fans. But when they won the American League East title in 2008 and 2010, attendance averaged more than 22,000 per game.

In fact, since winning their second AL East title in 2010, the Rays have averaged less than 20,000 fans each of the past nine seasons.

Phillip Hamm.jpg
Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto.

The numbers speak for themselves. We tend to like our teams more when they meet our expectations.

And we expect them to win. Consistently.

I think the same is true with God.

We’re big fans of God when things go our way — when everybody is healthy, the marriage is good and we have a little more income than we do bills.

But everything changes when He doesn’t do what we expect Him to do — when the people we care for suffer, when there’s no love in the marriage and when we have to spend most of our waking hours at a job we hate.

We expect God to help us win at life and we lose patience with Him when He doesn’t.

Mark 11 records Jesus coming into Jerusalem the week before His crucifixion. The crowds loved Him so much they plan on making Him their King. They expect this miracle worker to raise an army and free them from the occupying Roman government.

But Jesus doesn’t act like a revolutionary. In the week that follows, He publicly attacks their religious leaders. He says the Temple will be torn down. And He tells them to pay taxes to the government they want to overthrow.

Within seven days, some of the same people who were cheering Him into city were chanting crucify Him.

He didn’t win the way they expected Him to win.

At some point we have to come to grips that God won’t always give us a winning season. Our lives won’t always be easy. Praying harder and having more faith won’t necessarily change it. We need to decide if we will still be His fans after a few hard seasons.

Will we still trust Him when we lose? Will we still follow Him when He takes us places that are painful?

We can be fickle fans of our sports teams and God.

But, oh the joy we’re missing when we walk away during the losing seasons.

Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto. Reach the church at 941-722-7795 or visit Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.

Related stories from Bradenton Herald