Summer 2024

THE INCREASE: Love At All Times – Steven Souza

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” — Proverbs 17:17

This season I was able to experience just how important a strong community is. You can only go so far by yourself, but with a group you can reach a great distance.

The Christian community we’ve established on our team brought each of us closer to the Lord and each other. Our loyalty to one another was displayed in a powerful way as we each faced different personal struggles. We were able to be there for each other, walking through life together instead of on our own.

There was one guy on our team whom I didn’t really know well at the beginning of the year. He began coming to our Bible study but never really spoke or engaged much. I didn’t really know where he stood in his faith or if he even had faith in God. During one of our road trips, he had to stay back due to an injury. The day we returned, he sat down on the bench next to me to tell me something that completely surprised me.

“I have to tell you something I think you’ll be really excited about,” he said. “I’m really excited about it!”

“What is it?” I asked.

“When you guys were on the road last week, I went to church.”

“You did?” I asked with excitement. “Who’d you go with?”

“No one,” he said. Then he went on to tell me all about what the pastor had talked about and how much he loved it. I was amazed!

Sometimes I think I know what the Lord’s doing in people’s lives, but with this He blindsided me. I had no idea what was happening in my teammate’s heart and mind. I’ve found that when I’m faithful and consistent in sharing Christ with others, the Lord gives me moments like these so I can see His power at work.

As the season progressed, my relationship with this teammate grew and we became really good friends. I learned a lot about this guy. Though at first he came across unresponsive or uninterested, I learned he was much more comfortable discussing things one-on-one. In the group, he preferred to listen and really take things in.

So the two of us would often sit down together and talk. As the year went on, I watched as this guy, who already had an amazing work ethic, was changing. His words, actions and responses showed me how God was working in his life.

When you take time out of your day to spend with God, while also making the effort to spend time with others around you who are pursuing Him, you’ll notice growth in your life. Opening yourself up to be vulnerable with others is a great thing. Every time our group got together to read, study and pray together, we would grow deeper and learn more about each other. The relationship we have, with Jesus as our common bond, has strengthened our love for and friendship with each other. And this has been extremely important to us.

Baseball is an interesting profession because you don’t know who’s going to be there next year. I’m big into relationship building and that can be hard when guys are being traded frequently from one team to another. But I know some relationships are going to last forever.

With these men, we’ll always be able to pick up right where we left off. I know it’s possible that every guy in our group may be on a different team next year, but our community won’t go away. God has places to send each of us to do His work. This only means I get to build new relationships to last for a lifetime. You can never stop loving people.

Steven Souza

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

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