Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Consistent Key to Success

We see it every day: People with less innate ability and talent who excel, attaining higher levels of success than more talented individuals surrounding them. We can observe this on playing fields and in sports arenas, the workplace, the entertainment stage, schools and hospitals, and just about everywhere else. What makes the difference?

We could cite many factors: Hard work, determination, perseverance, the old-fashioned “want to.” Or as my friend, Gary Highfield, puts it – “have to.” But there’s one factor we often overlook, one recently displayed on one of sports’ greatest stages: Consistency.

In the Super Dud (I mean, Bowl) a few weeks ago, again won by the New England Patriots, those of us who watched the game saw consistency personified. Disclaimer: I am NOT a Patriots fan, so I’m not writing to crow as a delighted fan. I’ve never met Bill Belichick or Tom Brady, and have no desire to do so. But we have to admit, they’ve achieved unprecedented success in professional football. And I believe consistency has been one of their primary assets.

How else does one team reach the NFL’s premiere contest nine times over the past 18 years, winning six Super Bowl titles? Along the way the Patriots have posted 18 consecutive winning seasons, won 10 straight divisional titles and reached their conference championship game eight straight years. During that span they’ve reached the post-season playoffs 16 times. That in itself is consistency.

The stoic Belichick, usually displaying about as much personality as an old sponge, annually assembles teams with less celebrated talent than his rivals, yet manages to get the most out of his coaches and players. Usually enough to beat the opposing team. All he does is get them to use their strengths with uncommon consistency.

And Brady? He should have his photo in the dictionary alongside the word, “consistency.” Other quarterbacks in the NFL have more raw talent. They might throw the ball harder and farther than he can. Some accumulate better statistics. What they don’t do, however, is execute with Brady’s high level of day-to-day, game-to-game consistency.

Regardless of the field of endeavor, anyone can look like a top performer for a few moments, a day, a week or a month. But to excel over a long span of time – years, or even a lifetime – requires, among other things, great consistency.

It’s not so different in the spiritual life. The true test of one’s walk with God isn’t how we look on Sunday, or even over a brief “season” of life when we’re full of inspiration and motivation. It’s all about being faithful, consistent over the long haul during tough times and good times alike.

The Living Bible expressed this reality in a wonderfully simple way: “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). This principle applies to financial success, but it holds true for other areas of life as well. As author Eugene Peterson termed it, the Christian life and our calling as disciples of Christ amount to “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Whenever I’ve grown weary or discouraged, when I’ve wondered if God has been using me at all to make a difference in the world – at least my sphere of influence – two passages have brought encouragement: 

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10).

Both speak to the importance of perseverance and consistency in our daily walk with the Lord. We are to persist in the work to which He has called us, doing it with consistency, day by day, even hour by hour. 

Prior to the Super Bowl, I read about Tom Brady’s year-round training regimen, his daily workout routine and well-defined diet, not only on game day but also throughout the year. These have been beneficial for being able to compete successfully with foes who are much younger – even by a decade or two.

As followers of Jesus, our daily “workout” should reflect the same kind of consistency – time in the Scriptures and prayer; association with fellow believers for mutual support and encouragement; and an unwavering devotion to the Lord and His mission. Thousands of years ago, King David wrote, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). Do we share this passion?

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