Craig Groeschel - Lessons From My Baseball Dad
Well this year marks my first Father's Day without my earthly dad here on Earth. And so what I wanna do today is something very, very different. I would normally preach a text from scripture or I would preach on a topic using God's Word to address different angles of that topic. But today I want to honor my earthly dad and hopefully point you to our Heavenly Dad in a way that would build your faith and intimacy in Him. And so what I wanna do is tell you some of the lessons that I actually learned from my dad. I need to warn you, they are not the traditional lessons that you would expect because my dad was not at all the traditional guy in any sense of the term. He was an incredible athlete. He played minor league pro baseball and was drafted in the Army.
Most people say, he wouldn't admit it, but he said, they all say he probably was on his way to the majors. Most certainly, incredible athlete. And because of his love for baseball, everything in life was related to baseball. I was a little kid and we did not have a swing set in the backyard. We had a pitcher's mound and we had a home plate. And I was pitching probably at the age of three. Everything was related to baseball. He could relate anything at all. Instead of asking me, "Hey, Groesch," as he'd always called me Groesch. He wouldn't say, "Are you preaching this weekend"? He'd say, "Are you on the mound"? And that meant, "Are you preaching"? And I would say, "Yes sir". And then he would say things like, "Bring the heat". "Keep it low and inside".
I don't know what it means to keep a sermon low and inside, but evidently it was important to him. Everything was baseball. My first date, I'm like in the sixth grade going to a little dance and he says, "Don't step up to the plate without wearing your helmet". I don't know what that means. I still don't know what that means. I mean, I made, we have six kids and maybe it's 'cause I didn't know what he meant by, "Don't step up to the plate". I don't even know what that meant. But he just, everything that he did was around baseball. And what I know about Father's Day is it can be an emotionally tricky day for a lot of people.
There are some of you that had a really close relationship with your dads and if you did, praise God for that because there are many of you that didn't. And there are a lot of you that are dads and some of you have a very strong relationship with your children. And if you do, thank God for that because there are many of you that don't. And so I just wanna acknowledge that this can be a complicated time for a lot of people and it actually was for me for a period of years. I'll give you a little bit of the backstory. When I was young, I absolutely idolized my dad. We had so much fun together in different times and he could beat up anybody else's dad. And I actually might have seen him do that once or twice. And he was just, he was a hero to me. And as I got older, I learned that we all paid a very real price for his alcoholism. And this was something he talked about very freely later in life.
So I'm not dishonoring anything that he didn't tell, but I would say from my perspective as a kid, to the best of my knowledge, I never saw him after 10:00 PM at home sober, not one time. And so you can imagine that created some more challenging nights and weeks and months and even years. And something very special happened early in my ministry. I was preaching on the repentant sinner on the cross. There were two people next to Jesus when he was dying on the cross. And one of them was sorry for his sins.
And I preached this very text when Jesus said to this guy who said, "Hey, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus answered him and said to this guy, "Truly, I tell you, today you'll be with me in paradise". And I preached very, very clearly with a lot of passion because I was still a newer believer about the amazing grace of Jesus that this guy was hanging on a cross dying and he couldn't do a single good work. There was nothing he could do. He couldn't be baptized. He couldn't join a church. He couldn't give an offering. He couldn't turn over a new leaf. He couldn't do anything at all but trust the grace of Jesus.
And I preached that message and someone gave my dad a copy of the cassette tape and he listened to the message and he called me and he said, "Groesch, that old boy, you think he really went to heaven"? I said, "Yeah, it says it in scripture". He said, "Well son, he was safe under the tag". And then he said, "Groesch, you think there's still hope for me"? And I said, "Dad, there's more hope than you could ever imagine in Jesus". And I saw Jesus transform him in a way that's very difficult to describe. In 33 years of ministry, my dad is the biggest life change story that I've ever seen up close. Changed by the grace, the power, the glory of the Son of God who died and rose gain so we could be changed. And at his funeral I preached from his Bible and I preached a message called "Lessons From My Baseball Dad".
And I wanna share a few of those with you today in what I'm gonna call "4 Truths to Win at life". And these were some of the many sayings that my dad taught me over the years. And the first one he would say is this. He said, "Groesch, you can't win with a bad attitude". He'd teach me this. "You don't win without sacrifices. You gotta move the runners. Sacrifice to move the runners". He said, "No grass stains, no glory, no bruises, no story". And quoting Yogi Berra, he said it over again, "Hey, it ain't over 'til it's over". And I wanna show you today a few of the lessons and how they're very consistent with God's word. And I'll start with the first one my dad would say is, "You can't win with a bad attitude".
And at his funeral I had his Bible and I opened it up to a text that he had highlighted in Philippians chapter two. In many ways would've been like a life verse for him. And the apostle Paul from the prison wrote these words. He said, "Don't be selfish". And in the early years of my life, I think even my dad would agree that he was probably more on the selfish side. But after the grace of Jesus, there was not a selfish bone in his body. "Don't try to impress others". My dad did not in the later years of his life. "Be humble". Early on, he was like me early on and maybe like some of you early on or maybe even like some of you now, more proud. And scripture teaches us to be humble. "Thinking of others as better than yourselves". And "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too".
And I saw him live that out until the day he died. It's this part of the verse though that really captured the attribute of his life that really inspired me. And to this day, I wanna be more like it him. It says this, "You must have the same attitude as that Christ Jesus had". "You must have the same attitude as Christ Jesus". And I admired this until the day he died, his attitude. In fact, when I was a little kid, I can remember, you know, T-ball and me and my little T-ball buddies are lined up on the first base line. He'd line us up, he'd say, "Ten-hut". We'd do this. And that wasn't baseball but that was army mixed with baseball. "Ten-hut".
And then he'd come by and he walked down the aisle and he starts smelling everybody, he'd go. "Smell and see if anybody has a bad attitude. Anybody got a bad attitude? 'Cause you can't win with a bad at, with no bad attitudes on my field. You can't win with a bad attitude". And he'd say over and over and over again. And if any of you ever met him, Royce, you'd have to say, what did he say all the time? He always said, "Life is good". Over and over and over again, "Life is good, life is good, life is good, life is good". He said it so much, sometimes I just had to say, "You know what dad, it's not always good. Like today it might not be good". And he'd say, "Groesch, not about what happens to you, but it's how you respond to it. You can't control a lot of things in your life, son but you can control your attitude".
Your attitude should be like that of Jesus Christ who did not consider Himself better, but humbled Himself and served others. I love the way the Apostle Paul says it in Ephesians chapter four, and this could be a direct teaching for us that, "You were taught with regard to your former way of life before you knew Christ. You're just put off that old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires". That old nature, when you're new in Christ, that's not who you are, that old nature dies. All of those selfish, deceitful desires, you throw that off and instead you should be made new. What? Say it aloud with me. New in the what? "In the attitude of your minds". Our minds should be like that of Jesus Christ.
And so what do you do? You throw off the old self that is corrupted by the evil desires and you put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. You throw off the old, you put on the new attitude of your mind. Somebody here, I need to say attitude check. Don't tell me what God can't do. Don't tell me why life's not good. When God is good, He's working in all things to bring about good to those who love him and are called according to His purpose. Attitude check. Don't let me smell a bad attitude. Don't make me come over there Florida. Right? And that, and he lived this. I'm telling you he lived it. He battled with COPD, which is a a breathing disorder and fought off COVID with a severe breathing disorder and fought off cancer again and again and again.
And when he'd get bad news about his health, which there at the end seemed like it was every third month, he'd say, "Life is good, God is good and life is good". He'd say it over and over and he'd say, "Way I see it, Groesch, it's a win-win". He said, "If God heals me and I believe He will, it's a win. And if he doesn't heal me, I'm going to Heaven. It's a win". Attitude check, attitude check. Your attitude should be just like that of Jesus Christ. You don't win with a bad attitude. And then he taught me he loved the, and he kind of phrased this with winning, number two, is he taught me, "You don't win without sacrifices". "You don't win without sacrifices. Son, you gotta sacrifice to move the runners".
And I'm telling you, I could barely read, I probably couldn't read when he was teaching me baseball signals. If you don't know baseball signals, they're kind of funny. Coach will be on first base or third base and they'll start doing all this kind of. And they on and on and on. And what I learned early on is that they're doing all this to distract you and throw you off and somewhere in there there's a key. And what comes after the key is the signal. My dad's key was always nose, ear, whatever comes after nose, ear, so you can do anything. Nose, hat, that's not it. Nose, ear, what comes after it. And two taps to the arm was the sacrifice bunt. Eighth grade game, championship game, I was one of the better hitters. Had one runner on, we were one run down, then I came up to bat. My dad goes through all the things, key, sacrifice bunt.
So I shook it off. And he gave me again, thinking maybe I didn't understand, and gave me the, and I shook it off. I'm not bunt, I'm not sacrifice bunt, I'm too good for that. And my dad blew off all the extra stuff. And he looked down from the first base and he went. And I laid down the bunt. And I got out and we moved the runner. We ended up batting him in. And at the end of the game, he said, "You don't win without sacrifices". And this has been a principle that's helped me all through life. It's something we say at our church all the time that we'll give up some things we love for some things that we love even more. And this is a reflection not just of my earthly father, but this is a reflection of the love of our Heavenly Father.
In Romans 3:25, we read this about the sacrifice, "For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin". What does that mean? Jesus was called the Lamb of God. He was perfect in every way. He'd never sinned. And because He was holy and because He was pure, because He was clean, He could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He died in our place. Scripture says, "People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood". In other words, you're not made right with God by being religious enough, by being good enough, by turning over a new leaf, by trying to be better, by stopping being bad. But you're made right with God by the grace of God through the love of God. When Jesus, the Son of God sacrificed his life in our place.
And the writer to the Hebrews talked about sacrificing for others and this is the life my dad lived out. Hebrews 13:16. "And don't forget to what"? "To do good," church. We don't just go to church. We are the church. We are the light of the world. Wherever we go, the love of Jesus walks into the room, wherever we go, we do good and we "share with those in need". We will lead the way with irrational generosity because we truly believe it's more blessed to give than to receive. And what do we do? We "don't forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God". You don't win without a sacrifice. And this was indescribably meaningful to me. Because I know my dad sacrificed a lot, but I had no idea until the day that he died and we rushed down to his hometown and came into his home with Royce. And Royce, you can tell me. Amy, you can. Am I exaggerating?
It was like the closing scene from "It's a Wonderful Life" when the whole town came in and said, "George Bailey did this for me". And person after person after person, and I'm not making any one of these up, said, they came in and someone said, "He paid for my son's tennis lessons". And someone else said, "Well, he paid for my granddaughter's dance lessons". And someone else said, "Well he paid for my kid to go to Christian camp". And someone else said, "He gave me gas money". And someone else said, "He paid my electric bill". And one lady said, "He paid to get my nails done and I'd never had my nails done in my whole life". And by the way, I still don't understand the whole nail things, but ladies, God bless you, because I'd never heard a guy say, "Do you see the nails on that girl"? But I know that you like it and so you do it.
And anyway, that's a whole 'nother story. Someone else said, "He bought diapers for my kids". People said, "He called when I needed advice and gave me the advice that I didn't want to". Several people said, "He visited me when I was in prison". At his funeral, a lady came up to me and said, pointed and said, "See that guy over there, that's my son. And my son was an addict and was hitchhiking, homeless. And your dad pulled up and said, 'Looks like you need a ride son.'" And the guy got in my dad's car and my dad led him to Christ. Drove him to Lone Grove. I don't know why Lone Grove, but that's a place in Oklahoma baptized him in a horse trough. Why a horse trough? I don't know, it probably sounded good to my dad. Paid for the guy to go to rehab and the guy was sober at my dad's funeral. And those are the sacrifices that please God.
And when I tell you all that generosity thing, my dad was not a wealthy man. I don't think he ever wrote what many people would consider to be a big check to anyone. But I'm telling you, he gave tens of thousands of dollars, $20, $50 and a hundred dollars at a time to people that were in need. And I don't think he ever gave any speech in front of thousands of people. But what I know is he gave thousands of inspirational speeches one-on-one, sitting on the other side of a cup of coffee with someone who needed some encouragement. And Amy can tell you this, there wasn't hardly a time that we talked where he wouldn't say "Groesch, you know anyone who needs some American dollars"? That's what he'd always say. "Anybody who needs some American dollars"? I'm like, "Dad, why don't you just buy yourself a car that works"? He's like, "No, no. You know, it's more blessed to give than to receive. You don't win without sacrifices".
You gotta make some sacrifices to move the runners. My dad taught me you don't win with a bad attitude and you don't win without sacrifices. And this quote's not original to him, but he would say, "No grass stains, no glory, no bruises, no story". And I love that quote because sometimes, anytime we'd go and play a game, he was always the coach. And anytime we'd play a game and the field was a little bit muddy, he'd make us go dive headfirst in the mud before the game. He goes, "If you're gonna play, you might as well get muddy now. So you don't worry about getting muddy then. No grass stains, no glory, no bruises, no story". And in his life he had some stains and he had some bruises and he had a story and God got all the glory.
And this was a guy who didn't know how to say much without cussing early on. And it'd be one out, one slip out later on too. But he said over and over again, he would say, "Praise his name. Praise His holy name. Praise His holy name". In fact, when we were gonna start Life Church years ago, Life Church wasn't Life Church. We were starting a church. We didn't have a name, there was no name. So we what? What do we wanna call it? And we had like Life Church was one name, we had some other names. And Amy will tell you this is true, he wanted to, he said, "Why don't you call it Praise his name. His name is Holy church". I said, "We'll go with Life Church".
But anyway, that's, that was his story. And if you could imagine going from being drunk on booze to being filled with the Holy Spirit, that's what the power of God can do in someone's life. And if you're praying for someone today, and don't know if it's possible, don't give up faith. Don't give up faith. I love what 1 Peter 5 says, it's so powerful. "And the God of all grace, the God of all grace, the God of all grace who gives us what we don't deserve and can't earn, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ". After you've got some stains on your uniform, after you've been through some stuff and you got a little story and you've suffered for a little while, what will he do? This is what he'll do for you. This is what he'll do for anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, this is what he did for my dad. "He will restore you and He'll make you strong again. He'll make you firm and steadfast, He'll restore you. He'll make you better than new. He'll make you strong in Him, firm in the truth of His Word and steadfast to the power and glory of His name. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen".
Praise His holy name. Praise His holy name. My dad was big in the recovery community. He was a big fan of Alcohol Anonymous, AA. And in AA they always talk about their higher power. And to be very, very clear, my dad wanted you to know his higher power's name was Jesus. And he'd tell you everywhere. And on November the 20th, in 1992, my dad delivered a significant blow against his spiritual enemy and had his last drink of alcohol and was sober 31 years. 11,082 days of sobriety. And I want talk to the one who is stuck today and tell you congratulations, today can be your day one. Today could be your day one. You gotta start somewhere.
How do you get to 11,082 days of sobriety? You start with day number one. You start with day number one because I know some of you're a lot like me and you got some stains and you got some bruises and you've been through some stuff and you wouldn't want to go through it again. But dang, you can make God look good when He makes you strong, when He restores you, when He makes you steadfast. See, even Jesus had scars, right? After the resurrection, even He had scars. And what did He do with his scars? He showed them as a testimony to the resurrection power of God. This is where I was and this is where I am now. I am not dead. I am alive. I am not in bondage. I am free. I am not what I once was. I've been made new by the power and the grace of Jesus Christ. And I dunno who this is for, but it could be day one. You just show your scars. That's where I was. I'm not there anymore. Day one, day one, day one, day one, day one, day one.
"No grass stains, no glory, no bruises, no story". And then to quote Yogi Berra, he would always say, "It ain't over 'til it's over". And my dad had this never. I'm telling you this, never quit, never give up, never go down, never surrender attitude. And it could be the bottom of the ninth inning and we're down four to zero. And this is his real hat. And it's so real, it's like kind of, it's a little bit dirty. And we'd be down and dad would come in the dugout and say, "All right, you know what time it is. Don't make me tell nobody what time it is. You know what time it". And when he say what that, all we'd do is this. It's rally time. The hats were going backwards. If you don't know what that means, it means it's time to get going. It's rally time. It ain't over 'til it's over. You're not dead until you're done. And if you're not dead, you're not done. It's rally time, it's time to get going. It's rally time.
Somebody right now, it's rally time for you. It's rally time. You're still here. God's still got something for you. And dad and Royce, his wife, started a Celebrate Recovery and it grew to become the biggest Celebrate Recovery in southern Oklahoma. And it was so big, the church that it was meeting in said, "You can't meet there anymore". It just got too big. And the church said, "You can't meet there". And so it went away. It was one of the saddest days of his life. Several years later, he's in his eighties and he's in and outta the hospital. Days before his death he's in and outta the hospital. He said, "Groesch, I think God's called me to start another Celebrate Recovery".
Barely able to even come home from the hospital, and he's still swinging another, taking another bat, always fighting for those who had some bruises, those who had some dirt on their uniform. And what I want you to know right now is if you're hurting in some way, he'd be fighting for you. He'd sit across from you and say, "Are you addicted? I was too. Are you broken? I was too. Are you imprisoned? I was too. Did you not see a way out? I didn't either". And then he'd tell you, "If it ain't over and it's not over until it's over, turn your hat around. It's rally time. It's rally time". And all the way down to the very end, he was fighting to help people find freedom in the name of Jesus, the name that is above every name. And his legacy will live on.
In fact, so much so that shortly before his death, they named a recovery home after him and called it Tom's House in his honor. And that legacy will live on. I can still hear his voice giving his acceptance speech and I wish that I had saved more voice messages from him, but I did save a few. And there's one that I thought I might just let you hear in his voice and might encourage you and might remind you that life is good. Hey Groesch, we're so proud of you flying. Woo, baby. I'm telling you, that's awesome. Yeah, we're excited for you. So anyway, I've got some surprises. One of these days we're going to need to visit, just you and I. So anyway, Groesch, we love you. So proud. life is good. Alright, bye. He was always proud. He liked my flying.
And that's why it's kind of special today that Brett is here who helped me get my instrument rating. And I wish I could have told him about that because he would've really liked it. But I believe with all my heart that he'd wanna tell some of you here this, "You can't win with a bad attitude". You should have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. Put off the old, bring on the new, be made new in the attitude of your mind. He'd tell you, "You don't win without some sacrifices". Sometimes you gotta lay down a bunt to move the runners. And sometimes the best wins come after the biggest sacrifices. If you gotta give up something you love for something you love even more, why don't you give it up today. And he'd tell you, "No grass stains, no glory, no bruises, no story". You got a story? Give God glory. If you don't have the healing story, let day today be day number one.
The grace of Jesus is here and he'd tell you, "It's not over 'til it's over". You're still praying about something and you're about to give up faith, don't give up faith. Let the Word of God build your faith. You've had a dream for something and you're ready to surrender the dream, don't surrender the dream. If it's a God-given dream, if it's God's will, you can't stop it. If you're praying for a breakthrough, keep seeking Him. Galatians 6:9-10 was one of his favorite verses. Scripture says this, "Let us not become weary in doing good". Show up early, practice hard. Stay late. Bring your best. Always run through the bag.
Keep your butt down. Keep your head up. Don't let a ball go between your legs. Dive in head first if you have to. Keep your pitching arm loose. Grab the rosin. Oil your glove. Show up early. Bring your best. I have no bad attitude. Don't come here with a bad attitude. You're a winner. You're victorious. There's more in you. "Don't grow weary doing good for at the proper time, we'll reap a harvest". We'll win a game. We'll see the miracle. We'll experience the breakthrough. We'll see God glorified if we do not give up. I preached that first part. That may be one of my top five go-to verses. "Let's not become weary doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up".
Immediately after it, there's a part that almost none of us preachers go to. And the verse right after it says, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people". And that's what my dad did. That's what Jesus calls us to. And that's what we're gonna be as the church. We don't just go to church. We are the church. Come on church, it's time. Rally hat. It's time, it's rally time. Time is short. The needs are great. The world is dark. The light needs to shine brightly through the church. We don't just go to church. We are the church. That's what we do. That's what we do. We rise up. We rise up. We rise up. There's more in you. There's more in you. And there's more in you.
And so Father, we ask that by the power of your Spirit, you would do a work in your church today. Stir up the gifts of your Holy Spirit. Cause us to rise up, God, to make a difference. I pray for anyone who's stuck, anyone who's hurting, anyone who is in bondage from an addiction, that the power of your Spirit would help. Help set them free, give them day one.
Wherever you're watching from today, if there is a message from my dad, more importantly from God's Word that God is speaking to your heart today, would you just lift up your hand right now? Just lift up your hand. All of our campuses online, you can type in the chat. "God is speaking to me". If there's a message that God is speaking to you, I'm gonna pray that the Holy Spirit just seals that in your heart. For some of you, it's the attitude.
God, give us the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ. Putting off the old, being made new in the attitude of minds. God, for some of us it's willing to sacrifice. It might be to sacrifice our pride, to confess a sin, to confess our need for help, to make a real sacrifice, a hard decision, a hard choice. Make a sacrifice. We don't win without sacrifices. God, for some of us, it's just getting a little bit dirty, just getting in the game and letting you create a story that brings you glory. And God, for anyone who might be about to give up, we pray they would not grow weary in doing good, but at the proper time, they would reap a harvest, experience an answered prayer. See a miracle. Experience salvation. If they don't give up seeking you. God, do a work in our hearts, we pray.
As you keep praying today without looking around, there may be some of you who you were like my dad, at some point in your life. You maybe had been around the things of God. You might have gone to church some, whatever, but you don't have a relationship with Jesus. Let me explain it as simply as I can. Even as I did the message that changed my dad's life. There was a man on a cross dying next to Jesus and he looked to Jesus and he said, "Hey, you haven't done anything wrong. Will you remember me"? That was his best effort to say like, "Forgive me, help me, save me". That was the only words he had. And a man who couldn't do any good works. Jesus said, "Today you'll be with me in paradise".
Jesus was the Lamb of God. He was God's own Son who sacrificed His life. He paid the price. He became sin for us on the cross and died in our place. And God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on His name, your sins would be forgiven and you would be completely changed. Wherever you are, you may be stuck in an addiction right now, you may have experienced spiritual doubts. You may feel bad about something you did, the people that you hurt. Scripture says, "Anyone, doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter how bad your life is. Anyone. This includes you, who calls on the name of Jesus, your sins would be forgiven and you would be made brand new".
Today at all of our churches or around the world online, those who say, "Yes, I need his grace. I need Jesus today". Just step away from your sin. Step away and step toward him and say, "Jesus, I surrender. I give you my life". That's your prayer. You need his grace. You need his forgiveness. You're ready today. You're stepping up to bat. You're saying, "Yes, Jesus, I give you my life". That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now. All of the places say, "Yes, Jesus. I surrender to you".
As we have hands going up today at all of our churches, we thank God for his grace, the grace of Jesus. Online, you can just type in the comment section. "I'm giving my life to Jesus. I'm surrendering to Him". And as we have people today all over the world, would you just pray aloud with those around you? Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus, save me. Make me brand new. Fill me with your spirit so I could know you and serve you and follow you. Give me your attitude, the mind of Christ to serve others, to do good, to love them, toward you. Thank you for new life. Take all of mine. In Jesus' name, I pray.