Bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, down by three. You’re at the plate.

For some, that’s a dream.

For others, it’s a nightmare.

The dreamers relish the chance to see what they can do in a pressure situation. They want the bat in their hands. It’s not an arrogance thing with them, but a confidence they’ve developed through hard work and preparation.

The nightmares come to those who don’t feel they’re up to a moment like that, usually because somewhere in their minds they know they aren’t ready, haven’t prepared, and haven’t put in the work.

It’s one thing to be unprepared for the big moments in a baseball game. It’s a far more terrifying thing to be unprepared for what life will throw at you.

Proverbs 24:10–“If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.”

In other words, if you fold up like a tent when times get tough, it just reveals how weak you’ve been all along.

Harsh, but true.

The strength mentioned in this verse isn’t just the ability to appear strong. It’s real, deep-down, spiritual, God-given strength to face and endure and thrive in whatever comes your way in life. It’s the ability to see God’s hand at work, to trust him, to follow him, to lean into him, to call on him, to depend on him…no matter the circumstances.

And we know from experience and from watching others that life throws some tough things at us.

How can we increase our strength now in order to be prepared for later?

There’s a guy named Joshua in the Old Testament (see the book of Joshua) who found himself in circumstances that would overwhelm most people. The leader of God’s people, Moses, died and God then told Joshua it was his turn to lead the nation of Israel. Pressure, for sure.

Here’s what God told him: get going with what I’m telling you to do (obey), I’m giving the battles to you and will fight for you and will never leave you (relax), be strong and do what I say (trust), fill your mind with the Scripture (learn), don’t be afraid (step up).

Obey. Relax. Trust. Learn. Step up.

Doing those things now, when the pressure isn’t on us…that’s how we get prepared to do those things when it heats up.

And that’s exactly what Joshua had been doing throughout his life. All along, he had been obeying, trusting, learning, just doing what God said. So, when it came his turn to experience the pressure of a distressing time, he was ready.

What will happen when the pressure is on you? When, in life, it’s the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded and your team down by three? Prepare now, because then it will be too late.

Lord Jesus, you and you alone have what I need to be prepared for difficult times. Strengthen me. Teach me to obey, to relax, to trust, to learn, and to step up when it’s time. Live your life through me. Amen.