In baseball, they are called “innings eaters.” Pitchers who go the distance—pitching deep into games and consuming 200, 225, or 250 innings in a year. They often do not have the best stuff, the lowest ERA, or the most strikeouts. They usually don’t have the largest number of wins. But what they do have is consistency. They are usually not the staff aces, but are often the #4 or #5 starters in a club’s rotation, although in years past you would have lumped guys like Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton in the same category as other lesser-known “innings eaters.” Their Hall-of-Fame-worthy career statistics came from long-term consistency, not overpowering fastballs. They were tortoises in a world fascinated by the speedy hare. Blyleven and Sutton were able to experience solid success over a long period of time—not only building notable careers, but also giving relief for bullpens and starting pitching staffs alike as they consistently went into the late innings and providing quality starts for their teams. Though not spectacular, Innings Eaters are dependable and predictable—and that is the hallmark of a professional. Consistency.
The Christian experience can also be filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, and strengths and weaknesses. But, in it all, our lives can be marked by consistency over the long haul. In Acts 20:18, the apostle Paul, speaking to the leadership team from a church where he had spent 3 years, wrote:
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time…”
Three years of a consistent example was huge. That kind of track record did more than show an example—it built credibility. As a result, when he talked about living for Christ, they listened. Paul’s consistent example opened the door for a meaningful opportunity to minister to his friends from Ephesus. For us, opportunities to share our faith with others may become more frequent if we can learn, like Paul, to more consistently live what we preach. It is the long run of consistency and not the flash and dash of the sprint that will ultimately have the potential for the greatest impact. It is about going the distance.
Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain