Monday, March 27, 2017

Consistency and Calm

Only the hardcore baseball fans will be familiar with the name "Steve Dalkowski" because he never made it to the major leagues, even though he threw the baseball faster than any other human.  He pitched in the minor leagues from 1957 until 1966 before the advent of radar guns to measure pitch velocity.  However, best estimates are that he could throw at least 110 miles per hour, maybe even as fast as 125.  As a measure, only 11 players in the major leagues last year could throw the ball 100 MPHs +.  The fastest pitcher in 2016, was Aroldis Chapman who amazingly threw the ball 105 MPHs.  Chapman can't even come close to throwing with the same velocity as "White Lightning", Steve Dalkowski, but Chapman is an All-star making millions of dollars.  Why did Dalkowski never make it to the big leagues?  There is a one word answer:  Control.  He was also one of the wildest pitchers ever with pitches so erratic they could end up in the stands.  Over his minor league career, he average 13 strike out per nine innings, but he also averaged 13 walks per nine innings.  Today, a pitcher is considered wild if he averages 4 walks per nine innings.  Dalkowski had a game in which he struck out 20 batters, but he also walked 18 batters.  Without control, all the speed in the world won't matter.  A pitcher must consistently find the strike zone or he will not be successful.  So after nine years in the minor leagues, his baseball career was over due to this lack of consistency.

In all of life, consistency is a key to success.  Our culture value lots of flash, but flash never lasts.  I remember a singing group back in 1979 called "The Knack".  They recorded the song "My Sharona" which was the number one song of that year.  Critics were saying they would be more popular than the Beatles had ever been and were preparing us for the fan-mania which would go along with this musical group.  Alas, it was never to be.  The groups second album made a reasonable number of sales, but the third album was a bust.  Most of you born after 1980 have never heard of this group because they never had lasting fame.  We see musicians and actors like this come and go.  We see fads that are all the rage, then fade away quickly.  We call it having your 15 minutes of fame.  The Internet and YouTube have made it easy for someone to rise in popularity and fall just as quickly.  What is trending today will be history tomorrow.  Consistency is difficult to maintain in today's every-changing market.

As a pastor for over 25 years, I have seen it in the church.  I have seen church growth fads that are encouraged as the answer to what ails your church.  Your church needs to be seeker-sensitive.  No, your church needs to be purpose driven.  No, your church needs to be a Simple Church.  Every week, I get phone calls from Christian telemarketers telling me about the latest training series which is endorsed by this famous Christian and will instantly transform our congregation into more devoted followers of Jesus and will increase attendance dramatically.  At every conference, there is a speaker who can tell us how to grow a church into a large church if we just follow a certain program.  Churches become divided because they aren't sure which direction they should take.

I have also seen it with church members.  They first come to Christ and they are on fire.  They have magnificent growth and then they flame out.  They fall back into the same life from which Jesus rescued them.  They realize that being consistent isn't always a pleasure and takes energy and discipline.  Or someone goes through a traumatic event and they recommit themselves to Christ.  They tell everyone they are coming back and want to find a place to serve.  But once the pressure is off, they go back to the same old ways.  If everyone came to church who told me at a funeral that they were coming to church, Hillcrest would have three services every Sunday morning.  Consistency is difficult to maintain.

Two keys to consistency are found in the Bible which will help us be more consistent.  The first is found in 1 Corinthians 1:7-9, which says, "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."   Jesus makes a promise to us that He will keep us firm till the end.  We simply need to walk with Him every day.  We can't let our focus drift to all of these other distractions.  Moment by moment, we trust Jesus in each detail of life.  We pray over those details and put our future in His hands. 

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A second key is discipline.  I Timothy 4:7 tells us "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales;  father train yourself to be godly."  The decision to be disciplined in our lives is our decision.  The Holy Spirit will give us self-discipline, but we must take the first steps.  There will always be an miss not neglect daily study of God's not fall back into old patterns.  So we have to make the decision to start and complete our journey of life with Jesus.  no one else can force us to be disciplined.  No one can beg or cajole us into being disciplined.  God certainly won't force us, but He will give us the strength.  We have to evaluate where we are headed and where we would rather be.  Then we must make the choices that will allow this to happen.

Consistency is a key to keeping calm no matter what comes our way.  What is your stumbling block to consistency?  Go after that stumbling block in the days, weeks and months ahead.  You will look back with a grateful heart and mind if you do!

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