Summer 2024

THE INCREASE: An Answered Prayer – Steven Souza

Before this season started I sat down and prayed that God would surround me with an incredible amount of people who love Jesus. I didn’t know what that would look like — whether they would already be mature believers or men who would come to know Christ during the season.

You see, the previous year I was the only person on my team who would go to chapel. That was a career first for me, and it was really hard. So this year I was praying for God to bring me some men I could disciple, for people within our organization who were eager to follow Jesus, and for a community of people who would carry themselves in such a way, both on and off the field, to make people notice a difference.

In the midst of the season you never really know what God’s doing. Baseball is a sport where you don’t have time to stop and think about what’s going on. You just keep going, day in and day out. When the final day of the season came, I found myself completely overwhelmed by the incredible way God had responded to my prayer for this year.

No, we didn’t make the playoffs. In fact, the season didn’t end well. Though we were pretty much penciled in as a wild card during the season’s break, we didn’t make it. Yes, we were disappointed, but in no way did this season seem to me to be a loss.

At the end of the year, I had a teammate come up and ask me about Jesus. And another who asked if he could come to church with me. Then on the last day, I noticed a note stuck in my locker by someone in the organization whom I talked to all the time but never really understood how our conversations were impacting him.

This recently hired man, whose focus wasn’t on the game but the sports science end of things, told me in his letter that nobody had talked to him when he first arrived. He said our conversation was the first one he had with anyone and it made him feel really welcomed. Me, I didn’t think much of that conversation. I just said hello, asked him how he was doing and if I could help. Apparently that blew him away and really encouraged him. Not only did our conversations stand out to him, he expressed how he’d noticed how different our group of Christian men on the team were. He said we set a great example by how we carried ourselves. He said there was something different about all of us. I was so overwhelmed by this!

These are the things I don’t see developing during the season. In fact, I can often get hard on myself, thinking I’m not doing enough for the Gospel. To have three separate guys say something to me about how our faith in Christ set us apart — that was a huge blessing. On the last day of our season, a Sunday morning, I looked around and, as I sat with six solid Christian teammates of mine whom I had been doing Bible study with throughout the season, I realized I was sitting in the middle of God’s answered prayer. We had all grown tremendously in our faith and developed deep friendships with each other. In addition to our Bible study, we had about 13 guys coming to chapel by the end of the year. To go from one guy to 13 was incredible!

As I sit back and reflect on this season, I’m extremely thankful for what the Lord’s been doing. So often we forget to stop and celebrate the Lord’s blessing, but I don’t want to do that. Just as the Israelites would set up a pillar to remember when the Lord worked a miracle, I want to remember. Then, when the tough times come, and I know they will, I can look back and remember the faithful and abundant blessings of our God.

“And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.’” — Joshua 4:20-24

— Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays right fielder. He is a regular contributor of The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.

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