I was on hole #7. I had hit a fairly good drive (in actuality I sliced it hard, but it worked since the hole was a dogleg right), and I was now lining up my second shot with my fairway wood.
The breeze was nice and cool, and the course was gorgeous as Fall weather was finally descending upon North Texas.
I shanked my second shot. I mean I shanked it so bad into the rough that I had no idea where it was in the absence of GPS tracking. I was extremely frustrated at this point, as the six holes prior to this one were less than ideal.
I remember saying aloud “are you kidding me”. I was flustered and frustrated. It had been a long week and all I wanted was to get out on the golf course and escape for a little while. I no joke started venting right there to God. Me and Him came to mental blows right there in the rough. I wanted to see success in this hobby of mine. In ministry, most of what I do, all the hours I put into studying and preaching and teaching God’s Word, leads to few things I can visibly see. That’s part of the gig.
But, here on the golf course, I had the chance to work at a goal that I could tangibly see. It was an escape.
The problem was just that.
Instead of seeing a few hours on the golf course this past Friday afternoon as a gracious gift of God’s common grace to me, I instead abused said gift as a way to run away from the weightiness of this world. Instead of communing with God through my time golfing, I was more or less avoiding God if I’m being real honest with you today.
I don’t hear God audibly speak to me.
I instead feel His presence with me as themes and verses and ideas from Scripture flood my heart and mind throughout my day.
Right there, in the midst of my fuming at something silly and insignificant on hole #7, God reminded me that He must be my source of comfort, not any earthly thing.
Any earthly thing in our life can become an idol, a point of sin in our lives.
Golf is one of those gray areas in the Bible, obviously. There’s nothing in there about whether this sport is holy or profane. But I had to acknowledge on Friday, after the Spirit’s prompting, that I was running to this hobby as a source of comfort and escape, which certainly is sinful.
The Lord had to bring me to a place where I acknowledged that I had an unhealthy relationship with golf. That feels silly typing out, but it’s no less true. Here’s a small sampling of what Scripture has to say about our joy and our relationship with earthly things.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. – 1 Timothy 4:4
First off, my joy is to be found in the Lord. Secondly, my anxieties are to be removed from my mind and heart, not by hitting a little ball around (or by certain foods, or by an inundation of entertainment, or by mystery novels), but rather by bringing all of those things to the Father who cares for me.
The Bible is full of gray areas. One theme in Scripture is that God is our Good Father who gives us good gifts. The world is created for us to see our Father’s hand in. One way for us to approach the gray areas of Scripture and life on earth is by asking if these things can be received with thanksgiving, based in the Word and prayer.
For instance, can I give thanks for golf? Yes. Can it be spiritually beneficial to me, a way to respond to God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer? Yes, when utilized rightly.
Here’s an example from today.
Today, my dog Morty woke me up (as he does almost every single morning) by sniffing and licking my face. Once I put him outside, the pressures of upcoming children’s ministry and youth ministry events came careening into my mind. Today I was off of work, and so I certainly didn’t want to dwell on what I’ve got to do tomorrow all day today.
So I went to God’s Word. I reflected on His character.
I have spent the day reading through the book of Amos, and this jumped off the page.
Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And led you forty years through the wilderness, To possess the land of the Amorite. – Amos 2:10
Amos chapter two dictates and describes some of the most abhorrent sins of God’s people. Disgusting, vile, wicked stuff. I believe this runs hand in hand with their forgetfulness. They forgot what God had done. God uses Amos to remind them of His faithfulness. Boom. Just what I needed to read and meditate upon today. God is faithful. God has done great things for His people throughout history, and He has done great things for me.
I prayed that I would be reminded that He is God, and I’m just a little human. I don’t have to run from my problems, escaping into some worldly endeavor every chance I get. Instead, I can face them, not because I’m anything special, but rather because my God is.
I’ve been thinking about this all day long, and guess what.
I am going to go golfing with my wife Jamie here in a little while.
I am so excited.
Because my prayer is that, instead of fighting God on hole #7, I can commune with Him all along the way, receiving a night on the course with my wife as the wonderful gift that it is.
Yes, I’m likely going to splash one in the water on #5 and maybe even shank one on the highway on #2.
But I’m going in a state of gratitude for God’s grace, and I may just not keep score.
In His Name,