Thursday, May 31, 2018
Philippians 3:8 – 9 …that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
While Denise and I attended the Focus on the Family Pastor’s Retreat at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to which I referred yesterday, I had an opportunity to play golf at an exclusive, professional quality golf course, Thanks to a gift from a dear sister in Christ. We had the afternoon off from the conference, and my incredible wife blessed me with some alone time to go and enjoy the Gary Player Signature Course at Geneva National. I arrived an hour early for my tee time, and went to the driving range to warm up. Next to me was a young man who looked like a very good golfer. He intimidated me a little. I heard him talking to his partner next to him about the courses they have played in the past – big name courses where the pros play their tournaments, like Myrtle Beach. Now I was more intimidated. I began to focus on my own swing, and tried to do everything I could to measure up to his.
I finished warming up and went to the practice green to chip and putt, and was glad to be able to just be me again. I began to enjoy the quality of the course and appreciate the skills I had to put the ball in the hole while putting on the smooth and slick green. When it was time to get to the first tee, I drove my cart over to the starter’s booth and checked in. Pulling up behind me in another cart were the two men I would be partnered with to play that day. Guess what? It was the two guys from the driving range. Now my mind started to work on me. I know I can play golf fairly well, but I don’t play well when I am in competition with another person. I was out there to enjoy a round of golf, and so were they, but in my mind Satan was attempting to ruin the day by causing me to compare myself with other golfers. I had convinced myself that unless I beat them I would not have fun.
When we teed off on the first hole, the self-imposed pressure to perform well overcame me. I focus on my fundamentals, and hit a long and straight drive right off the end of the short fairway into a marsh in front of the green. To make a long story short, I spent the next three holes beating myself up and trying harder, all the while scoring terribly and watching these two business professionals gain a huge advantage on me. After the third hole I stopped and prayed and asked God to forgive me for trying to measure myself by others. I asked Him to calm my heart and just let me play golf according to the skills he gave me. I birdied the next hole, and proceeded to start hitting the ball very well. In the meantime, their games fell apart, hitting balls into the water on several holes, and the weaknesses of their games started to show up. When it was all done, I had shot a three over par 75 and had enjoyed some of the most spectacular golf holes and scenery I had ever played.
How did the two other golfers respond? God used them to teach me a lesson. I never heard a discouraging or frustrated word from them all day. When they hit the ball bad, they still had something good to say. They gave me high fives for my shots and I did the same for them. I don’t know if they were Christians or not, but they sure liked my joke about pastors having a great retirement plan. These were two guys who didn’t play the competitive comparison game in life. They knew who they were and they accepted it. They didn’t try to measure up to someone else’s standards – they just enjoyed life and what they were doing. They didn’t make excuses for poor shots and they didn’t seek recognition for good ones. They just played the game and found pleasure in what they did. I really needed that.
Paul directs our attention to that in today’s Scripture. He was tired of trying to measure up to a standard of righteousness found in the law. He was tired of seeking worth and acceptance he thought would come from playing the competitive comparison game with others. He was thrilled to realize that based on his faith in Jesus Christ and not his works, the Righteous One had declared him righteous. He had learned the freedom of living because he was righteous, rather than living to earn righteousness.
Just as I had to be reminded yesterday that I play golf because I am a golfer not to prove I am a golfer, God wants us to live as Christians because we are righteous, not to prove we are. When we get this settled in our minds and resist the temptation to compare ourselves to others and to prove ourselves worthy, life becomes fun again. We will begin to enjoy whatever comes our way. I would have missed out on a huge blessing yesterday and would have had all the joy sucked from me had I continued to try to prove myself. I would have been so preoccupied with performance that I would have not taken the time to enjoy the beauty of this awesome golf course.
Resting in the declaration of God through Jesus Christ of who we are brings peace, fulfillment, and joy. Isn’t it time you started living that way?