Sundberg taps his baseball gear for insights into God's armor

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)--It's been more than a decade since Jim Sundberg removed his catcher's uniform for the last time as a professional baseball player. But that gear has become a physical demonstration for his spiritual teaching on the armor of God.

Sundberg has developed a presentation on the armor of God's importance to Christians' lives, correlating different facets of baseball gear to the Ephesians 6:11-18 passage.

"It's a thought process that becomes a way of life, a second nature," said Sundberg, a member of Lake Arlington Baptist Church in Texas who accepted Christ as Lord and Savior 23 years ago.

"I think about it through the day, when I'm in prayer and when I'm with other people. Sometimes I'll say, 'Lord, I don't know what to say to this person, give me an idea.'"

The athlete-turned-businessman first presented a brief version of the teaching at an All Star game chapel in 1995. He has been refining it ever since and presents it periodically to various churches and men's groups.

Although he doesn't have any formal Bible school training, Sundberg researched the Scriptures and other references while praying for ideas about practical application.

The six pieces of armor and their parallel to his uniform and gear:

-- The belt of truth is the uniform belt, such a vital element that a major leaguer can't step onto the field without one. The belt of truth represents an intimate, honest relationship with God and is foundational for spiritual battle, he said.

-- His chest protector is the breastplate of righteousness. This tells a Christian his or her position in Christ; it is important for every believer to understand what Christ did on the cross and the power that gives his children, Sundberg said.

-- His spikes represent feet fitted with the gospel of peace. He often refers to a Roman soldier's footwear, which kept him from falling down under the weight of heavy gear. Likewise, as a player he wore three different kinds of shoes, depending on the turf and game-day conditions.

-- The shield of faith is his catcher's mitt, which works together with the breastplate. The confidence he had in his mitt for protection is similar to faith: "It doesn't matter how we feel, it's in concrete that we can trust God. He has promises in his Word and we can trust him."

-- The helmet of salvation is his catcher's mask. Without a mask he could have been knocked unconscious. Likewise, the helmet of salvation is the road to becoming Christlike, Sundberg said.

-- His bat represents the sword of the Spirit, which is the Bible. A major league bat is designed specifically for its user and helps the batter against an adversary on the mound, he said. And unless a person knows the truth of God's Word, there is no way he or she can use it as a weapon against the devil, he said.

At Lake Arlington Church, 300 men and their sons saw Sundberg's presentation on the armor of God at a banquet last year.

Pastor David George recounted, "I had several guys tell me it was the best program we ever had. The guys related to it. Jim's a good communicator and has a good use of humor. You can get bogged down in the middle of a message if you're not aware of that."

Although Sundberg operates Sports Training Systems, which publishes instructional materials for youth sports leagues, he feels so strongly about the armor of God that he expects it to be his next project.

While it may take two years to develop, he envisions a set of four books. The first will include teaching and his testimony, accompanied by a pastor's guide and 13-week workbooks for adults and children, he said.

"The passage in Ephesians 6 is very foundational to the Christian belief," Sundberg said. "To me, it's like hitting, throwing, fielding and base running in baseball. If you can't do those things, you can't get on the field.

"People aren't aware of what the armor is about. To be in ministry or in a position where you're trying to advance God's kingdom, if you aren't aware of the armor you're in a very vulnerable position."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ALL STAR'S ARMOR.

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