Albert Pujols is perhaps the game of baseball’s most decorated hitter of all time, with something to the tune of 2,140 career hits, a .325 batting average, and 455 home runs. That puts him in 34th place on the all-time home run list after just 1,775 games in 12 years.
Yet for all that success, he fails almost seven times out of ten. He has twice as many strikeouts (738) as homers, and he’s one of the best ballplayers of any era. Which points to a simple yet profound truth, gleaned from baseball and applied to all of life—success is facing and overcoming the inevitable, constant presence of failure.
The real question we all face in our lives isn’t whether or not we’ll meet disappointment and defeat. We will. The truly pressing question is, how will we respond when we meet setbacks on the way? When you get knocked down, do you pack your bags and go home, or do you get back up and continue on in the fight? Most of us aren’t professional athletes, but we all have our real life “strikeouts.”
The job you applied and interviewed for, the one on which you’d rested your hopes, fell through. Despite consistent, prayerful, biblical discipline, your kid still acts in habitual disobedience. You put in your best effort, hustled to get the project done, did your due diligence, got good demographic research, and still watched as your dream hit the ground in a blaze of fire like the Hindenburg. I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all tasted bitter disappointment and drank the dregs of defeat, even when we gave our best.
And while there are a ton of things God is probably teaching us through these things, I want to camp out on just one. God is using our disappointment to teach us how to be fighters, conquerors, resilient warriors who know no quit. I think God loves to see us grow in our bold, courageous, never-quitting, always hustling, seek-until-you-find, character. My favorite word for it is stick-to-itiveness.
Lest you think I made the word up, Dictionary.com defines it this way: “N. dogged perseverance; resolute tenacity.”
But why does perseverance glorify God? I think the answer is because “resolute tenacity” is actually the measure and substance of our faith. It is a description of our faith. It is a faith that never quits in pursuit of what it wants because it is certain that, in one way or the other, God will reward the search.
Without failure, setback, and disappointment, there would be no need to display this kind of dogged perseverance, this stick-to-itiveness, this unstoppable faith. God wants to use your strikeouts—whatever they happen to be—to grow you in your stick-to-itive pursuit of him, in every area of your life.
How do you deal with your failure? Do you embrace it as a God-given opportunity to practice resolute tenacity and iron-forged faith? Or do you run from anything difficult (and great!) because there is the promise of accompanying and inevitable failure?
And finally, since faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), given to unite us to Christ in the pursuit of his kingdom (John 15, Matt 6:33), Are the thing or things you’re spending your life tracking down worth the life-long, busted-knuckle, tear-stained pursuit? Only one thing matters (Psalm 27:4); is that your one thing?