Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
I don’t play golf. You might say, “I thought all preachers play golf and eat fried chicken.” Well, one out of two isn’t too bad. I am a big fan of fried chicken but golf has never been my thing. When I was at Cobden a good friend of mine named Andy would occasionally take me to play. Most times I would wack the ball and I would hook or slice it. I’m really not sure what that means but I do know the ball didn’t go anywhere near the hole. It generally went towards Australia.
Sometimes, and I admit it was rarely, I would hit the ball and it would go right down the fairway. I don’t know who was more surprised; me, my friend Andy or the ball. At any rate it occasionally happened. But that was the problem…the fact that I couldn’t seem to consistently make it do the right thing was very frustrating. So finally I looked at Andy and said, “You know Andy, I don’t understand why I am paying good money to be frustrated. I can stay home and be frustrated for free.” And boom…that was my last golf game. I do still get frustrated, but boy, have I saved money.
Well, with all that said, when we went on vacation with the family a month or so ago our condo overlooked this beautiful, world class golf course. Some famous guy designed it and the whole purpose of the course was to be challenging. Of course, for me that translated frustrating. I was amazed though about how carefully they maintained the course. Early every morning the crew would go out and prepare the course for that day’s lesson in frustration. Each person had a job and a piece of equipment to get the job done. Like I said, it was very impressive. And then I noticed something.
Every couple of days, a guy would sneak out on the course and play a trick on the guys paying to be frustrated. First, he would go to where they would tee off. That is the place where they smack the ball and see if it went towards the hole or towards Australia. He would move the tee backward or forward and change the distance to the green. Pretty tricky. But he wasn’t done. He would then go the green and move the flag and hole around—this side or that side—closer or further.
The whole point was to confuse the guys hitting the ball—to make it more challenging or depending on your perspective, frustrating. The golfers would tee off from a different place toward a target that had magically moved over night. What worked the day before wouldn’t work the next. It was different, it was challenging… it kept them on their toes. How about that.
As I watching all of this, it occurred to me that God must like golf too. In fact, I’m pretty sure they got their ideas from Him. You see God is all about helping us grow to be more like Him. To do that He introduces things in our lives that challenge us. You might say He occasionally moves the tee and moves the flag. Now, that might be frustrating but that isn’t why He does it. He does it to strengthen our lives—our game.
I don’t know if the Bible has an example about golf (though it does tell us to be “holy”) but it sure has a good one about running. Paul says that we should realize that in a race everyone runs but only one can win. We are to run to win. But the race isn’t about meters and miles—it is about becoming like Jesus. So, what’s the deal about becoming like Him? Well, the more we become like Him, the more our lives will have less “slices and hooks” and less consequences. Life is better, much better, with Jesus. When my life finally gets a little slower, I just might take up a hobby but I still think I can find something that will allow me to get frustrated for free. I’ll leave golf to the other guys. For now, the next time I get a little frustrated, I’m going to remember that God may have intentionally moved the tees or the flag to help me be like Him. Oh wait…here He comes now. He’s inviting me to take a rest and ride in the cart with Him. I think I will…He’s got this.