Inspiration: Keep Pitching

FOR AN EXTRAORDINARY PITCHER HE PERFORMED few extraordinary feats. Though a veteran of twenty-one seasons, in only one did he win more than twenty games. He never pitched a no-hitter and only once did he lead the league in any category (2.21 ERA, 1980).
Yet on June 21, 1986, Don Sutton rubbed pitching elbows with the true legends of baseball by becoming the thirtieth pitcher to win 300 games.
His analysis of his success is worth noting.
“A grinder and a mechanic” is what he calls himself. “I never considered myself flamboyant or exceptional. But all my life I’ve found a way to get the job done.”
And get it done he did. Through two decades, six presidential terms, and four trades, he consistently did what pitchers are supposed to do: win games. With tunnel-vision devotion, he spent twenty-one seasons redefining greatness.
He has been called the “family sedan” of baseball’s men on the mound. The connotation is accurate. He certainly boasted none of the Ferrari style of a Denny McClane nor the Mercedes sparkle of a Sandy Koufax, but after they and their types were parked in museums or garages, Don Sutton was still there.
He reminds us of a quality that is a common denominator in any form of greatness—reliability.
It’s the bread and butter characteristic of achievement. It’s the shared ingredient behind retirement pens, Hall of Fame awards, and golden anniversaries. It is the quality that produces not momentary heroics but monumental lives.
The Bible has its share of family sedans. Consistent and predictable, these saints were spurred by a gut-level conviction that they had been called by no one less than God himself. As a result, their work wasn’t affected by moods, cloudy days, or rocky trails. Their performance graph didn’t rise and fall with roller-coaster irregularity. They weren’t addicted to accolades or applause nor deterred by grumpy bosses or empty wallets. Rather than strive to be spectacular, they aspired to be accountable and dependable. And since their loyalty was not determined by their comfort, they were just as faithful in dark prisons as they were in spotlighted pulpits.
Reliable servants. They’re the binding of the Bible. Their acts are rarely recited and their names are seldom mentioned. Yet were it not for their loyal devotion to God, many great events never would have occurred. Here are some examples.
Andrew wasn’t a keynoter at the Pentecost crusade. He probably wasn’t on the podium, on the schedule, or even on the planning committee. But if he hadn’t been on his toes some years earlier, Peter the powerful preacher might have been nothing more than Peter the impetuous fish-catcher. Andrew, considering he was an apostle, is mentioned a surprisingly small number of times. Yet every time he is mentioned he’s doing the same thing: introducing somebody to Jesus. No lights, no pulpits, no reviews, but not a bad epitaph.
Epaphroditus would be on this list. “Epaphro-what-us?” you say. Just ask the apostle Paul. He’ll give you the correct pronunciation. He’ll also give quite a character reference. To describe this fellow with the five-syllable name Paul used more succinct words like brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, and messenger. You don’t earn eulogies like these from appearing at an occasional youth rally or showing up at church picnics. These are compliments earned over years and tears. But Paul’s finest praise of Epaphroditus was expressed in these words, “he almost died for the gospel.” You can bet that Paul, who knew what it meant to die for a cause, didn’t take sacrifice for granted. After writing the phrase, he must have leaned back against his prison wall and smiled at the mental picture of his old trail-buddy. Epaphroditus. The only thing longer than his name was his staying power.
Her hair is gray. Her skin is wrinkled. Perhaps her hand trembles as she touches the infant’s face. But there is nothing senile about her words. “This is he. The Messiah.” Anna should know. She’d been praying and fasting for this day for eight decades. Faithful servants have a way of knowing answered prayer when they see it, and a way of not giving up when they don’t.
Re-liable. Liable means responsible. Re means over and over again.
I’m wondering if this book has found its way into the hands of some contemporary saints of reliability. If such is the case I can’t resist the chance to say two things.
The first?
Thank you.
Thank you senior saints for a generation of prayer and forest clearing.
Thank you teachers for the countless Sunday school lessons, prepared and delivered with tenderness.
Thank you missionaries for your bravery in sharing the timeless truth in a foreign tongue.
Thank you preachers. You thought we weren’t listening, but we were. And your stubborn sowing of God’s seed is bearing fruit you may never see this side of the great harvest.
Thanks to all of you who practice on Monday what you hear on Sunday. You spent selfless hours with orphans, at typewriters, in board meetings, on knees, in hospital wards, away from families, and on assembly lines. It is upon the back of your fidelity that the gospel rides.
Thank you for being the family sedans of society. You can be called on cold mornings and you’ll deliver the goods. You can be sent over rough terrain and you’ll make it on time. You can go miles without the pampering of a good polish or the luxury of a tune-up and you never complain. You get the job done.
I said I had two things to say. What is the second?
Keep pitching. Your Hall of Fame award is just around the corner.

Max Lucado

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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