Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was seen drinking in a Dallas area bar Monday evening, according to reports dominating the local news this morning. Teammate Ian Kinsler came to the pub to persuade Hamilton to return to his home. The Rangers said they are aware of a "situation," but have not commented further. This was Hamilton's second alcohol-related relapse in three years.
Drug and alcohol abuse led to his suspension by baseball for the 2003-05 seasons. Hamilton has credited his conversion to Christianity as the reason for his sobriety and resulting success on the field. He is a four-time All Star and was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2010.
Skeptics will undoubtedly cite Hamilton's recent relapse as evidence that faith is inadequate or irrelevant to life's greatest challenges. Here's my question: where would he be without his relationship with Jesus? According to Hamilton, he'd not only be out of baseball – he might be dead. After he relapsed in 2009, he formed an accountability team that became a model for other athletes. Now God wants to redeem this week's setback for good as well.
What can we learn from Hamilton's relapse?
Lesson #1: any of us can fall. Hebrews 12 speaks of "the sin that so easily entangles" (v. 1) – Puritans called this our "besetting sin." Most of us struggle with a particular temptation that is more difficult for us to resist than other sins. Yours may not be mine, but mine may not be yours. I am not tempted by alcohol, but Josh Hamilton is likely not susceptible to some of the temptations I face.
Lesson #2: we must remain vigilant. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus urged his disciples to "watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). His command could be paraphrased, "Continually stay alert to temptation and pray the moment it appears lest you fall into it."
Satan knows and employs those temptations we cannot defeat in our strength, so the moment you face his attack, admit that you need your Father's help. Erasmus, the 16th century scholar, encouraged us to develop the habit of turning every temptation into prayer. Nothing vexes the enemy more, he said, than when his evil strategies are used for good.
Lesson #3: we should pray for Josh Hamilton. Oswald Chambers was right: "Discernment is God's call to intercession, never to fault finding." I'm praying for the Hamilton family this morning, asking God to redeem this setback for his glory and their good. And I will "watch and pray" today, lest I fall into my besetting sins as well.
Will you join me?