A few years ago, I went to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Miami Dolphins in Miami.
I went with a friend who volunteered in our children's ministry. We are both lifelong Cowboys' fans, even though we lived in South Florida, which is the home of the Dolphins.
We were able to get great seats, just a few rows up from the field. The game went well for our team and we came away with the win. For any sport's enthusiasts out there, it was the game Tony Romo returned after a shoulder injury several weeks earlier.
During the game, my friend pointed out that we were sitting a few seats away from one the player's family. It was the family of Jason Witten. If you're not familiar with the NFL, Jason was an all-pro tight end with the Cowboys for 15 years. He just recently retired.
That day at the game, there were a lot of people cheering for Jason. Thousands of fans at the stadium. Millions of people watching by television. Cheerleaders. Coaches.
But one thing stood out to me that day when I looked over a few seats and saw Jason's family. It was this. They were cheering for him. His children and wife were wearing his number. And when his name was announced for a catch or other play, they beamed with love and admiration. You could see it on their faces.
I don't know Jason personally, but as I've followed his career and watched his family cheering for him during a game, one thing has stood out to me. He's done something right, because his biggest fans are his wife and kids.
For over 8 years, I had the privilege of serving as the children's pastor at the church where Dr. John Maxwell is one of the teaching pastors. I spent time with his kids and grand-kids and saw firsthand how they loved and respected him. I am reminded of what John said about your family being your biggest fans.
"Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most. This made success for me possible only if I included my wife and children in the journey. From that moment on, my success depended on putting my family first. If you want to truly succeed in this life, you need to ask yourself a question: Is your pursuit of success drawing you closer to - or farther from – the most important people in your life?"
He is right. True success is when your family members are your biggest fans.
Perhaps you are just starting out in ministry. Please remember this. What does it profit you, if you win all the families in your community to Jesus, but lose your own family? What does it profit you, if the kids in your ministry think you hung the moon, but your own kids are bitter toward you. What does it profit you, if you save other people's marriages, but lose your own marriage? What does it profit you, if the volunteers in your ministry give you a thumbs up, but your family gives your relationship with them a thumbs down?
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then put them first. If your son has a ballgame that conflicts with a meeting at church, then skip the meeting and be at the ball game. Make sure you are home most weeknights. Use all of your vacation time and do fun things with your family. If someone asks you to do something ministry related on your date night with your spouse, say "no."
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then spend time with them. Words are great to tell your family you love them. But words alone are not enough. Show your family you love them by spending time with them. Your preschooler will only be a preschooler once. Your elementary-aged child will only be that age once. Your teenager will only turn 16 once. You'll only have one 5th wedding anniversary. Don't miss it.
This may mean even setting aside some hobbies you love for awhile. That's okay. You can pick the golf clubs back up when your son or daughter has graduated and is in college. You can go on that girls' trip after your own girls are out of the house.
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then treat them with honor and respect. Leave the stress of work at work. Be gentle and loving with your children and spouse. Smile as much or even more at home, than you do at church. Speak kind words to your spouse. No matter angry you are about something that happened at church, don't unload on your family. You can't be a jerk at home and expect your family to be your biggest fans.
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then ask for their forgiveness when you blow it. No one is the perfect spouse. No one is the perfect parent. You will blow it at times. When it happens, humbly ask for their forgiveness.
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then let them hear the words "I am sorry. Will you forgive me?"
One day, you will arrive at the end of your journey here on earth. As you walk those last few miles to the finish line, everything else will fade away. Your accomplishments in ministry will go out of focus. Your earthly possessions will won't matter.
But what will matter will be your family. When the crowds are not there cheering, will your family be there cheering for you? It depends on how you live now.
Jason Witten has received lots of awards and accolades over the years. But after seeing his wife and children cheering for him, I now realize his greatest accomplishment is this.
His family members are his biggest fans.
Are your family members your biggest fans? If not, now's the time to make some adjustments. Rearrange some priorities. Shift some calendar dates. Drop some hobbies. Say "no" to some things, so you can see "yes" to your family more often.
This is how you will accomplish true success.