There was a time when I was a big baseball fan. When I was a boy, I loved the Cincinnati Reds (The Big Red Machine) because I liked Johnny Bench who was from Oklahoma. I suffered through their World Series losses to the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's in 1970 and 1972. But back-to-back World Series Championships over the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in 1975 and 1976 made it all worthwhile. When The Big Red Machine broke up, my support of the Reds went away, but that's when I became a Reggie Jackson fan. I loved the drama he brought to the Yankees and later to the Angels (in the end I guess I'm more a fan of specific players than I am of teams).
I don't follow baseball as much as I used to (although I was pulling for the Yankees over the Phillies in the latest World Series), but I was interested when the latest Hall of Fame vote was released. I was happy go see Andre Dawson elected. I used to watch him when he played for the Cubs, and I loved the way he looked so menacing at the plate. But the thing that stood out the most to me was the fact that Mark McGwire came up weak on the balloting. A player needs to receive 75% of the votes to be inducted, and McGwire received 23.7% of the votes in his fourth appearance on the ballot.
Any confusion about the McGwire vote was removed this past week when he finally admitted to using steroids during his career. That means his prolific home run totals, including 1998, the year he captured the attention of the entire country as he broke Roger Maris' long standing record of 61 home runs in a season (McGwire finished with 70), were all aided by performance-enhancing drugs. Now, to be honest, I like Mark McGwire. I always have. I've always liked the home run hitters. And I'm not interested in being overly critical. There is a part of me that feels bad for him. But in the end, all of this just reinforces something I've believed for a long time. There are no short-cuts to success.
Have you ever noticed how often someone who desperately wants to succeed never does? Oftentimes that's because in their desperation they're willing to try every short cut that comes along. And those shortcuts are the very things that sabotage their efforts. From a purely statistical standpoint Mark McGwire's career was a huge success. But do you ever think anyone will ever look at those statistics as being legitimate?
There are a lot of things that contribute to success in our personal lives, our families, our careers, our finances, etc, but there is never any substitute for things like hard work, honesty, and perseverance. I think that principle is found throughout the Scriptures. Proverbs 13:11 says, Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. (NIV) Galatians 6:9 says, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)
This past Wednesday at our monthly all-staff luncheon, I spent some time challenging and encouraging our staff to embrace this truth about hard work and perseverance. I told them that one of the most important ministry principles they can ever learn is that leaders can accomplish big goals one step at a time. That's not what most people want to hear, that's not even something you find in a lot of leadership books and articles, but it is absolutely true. In a world where everyone wants instant gratification and instant success, perseverance isn't something that's talked about a lot. But there's no substitute. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a “one step at a time” kind of guy because I know that God rewards faithfulness. I hope that's something that you know as well.