Saturday, April 21, 2012

Taking aim

In the ever continuing struggle for truth, justice and weight maintenance, I try and play golf on a regular basis for exercise.  It’s about the only sport (other than NASCAR) where you get to ride in a vehicle while you do it.

I like golf because it’s a simple game – the goal is to get the ball into the hole.  That’s about it in a nutshell.  And to make golf simpler, there are an abundance of signs to help you along the way.  At every hole there’s a sign with information about the shape/length of the hole, where water and sand traps are.  There are markers to show you where to hit the ball from, signs/arrows where the next hole is, red sticks showing where out of bounds is (I’m all too familiar with these last markers).  And to help you get to the goal, there’s even a stick with a flag on it (called the pin) to show you where the hole is.

For me, it’s all about aiming at and hitting towards the pin.  Hitting the ball off the tee is ok, but if I can hit that shot into the green and towards the pin, then I’m going to have a good round.

Last time I played there were good shots and some not so good shots.  I could tell you about the drives that went directly to jail (a.k.a. woods, lake); they did not pass “GO” and did not collect $200.  Or the shot where the dirt went further than the ball (let’s not dwell on the negative).  But the shots I remember most are the ones where I took aim, envisioned the shot, stood over the ball, took a breath, swung, stayed balanced, hit the ball and watched as it landed on the green and stopped close to the pin.

It feels so good when you take aim at something, prepare, execute and see results.  I don’t care if it’s fishing, cooking, painting a room, washing your car.  There is something about setting a goal/direction, working/walking towards that goal and then finishing.

This may sound like a weird idea (but you wouldn’t be reading this unless you expected something weird), have you taken aim and set spiritual goals for yourself?  Do you have any goals (or even just one) for inviting God into your daily life?  Are you intentionally seeking God in some meaningful way?

Let me share three helpful ideas on how to start doing this;

  • Seek – We need to purposefully seek after God.  This is more than flipping through some preacher on cable TV, or sitting with your arms folded in church.  Seeking God is constantly and consistently pursuing after him on a daily basis.  Think about the last time you lost your keys or cell phone.  Did you just sit back with your feet up and arms folded, thinking that they would just show up?  I don’t know about you but I just about come unglued if I can’t immediately lay my hands on them.  In the same way, with equal focus and intensity we need to constantly and consistently seek after God.  Colossians 3:1 - Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
  • Set – Once we have committed to seek God, the question of how immediately pops up.  While there are many things that could be said about “how” practically to do this, I’m going to suggest that it starts with setting our mind.  We need to focus our mind and lives around the person of Jesus Christ, who he is, what he has done, his purpose for us and our lives.  Like a compass keeps pointing north no matter what happens and where it is, so we need to keep our mind and life pointed towards Jesus.  When we set our focus, this immediately implies that other things will no longer be our focus.  Directing our time and attention towards Jesus also dilutes our focus on other things.  Colossians 3:2 – Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
  • Solve – When the Bible talks about “working hard” on our relationship with God, the word picture is like solving a puzzle or math problem; it requires time and work to bring it to completion.  And that effort is not sporadic; it takes time, over time.  When I first met Mary Ann, she was interested in all sorts of plants, flowers, vegetables, trees.  To me, they just grew in the ground and that was about it.  Now I can “solve” the question of what plant we’re looking at by their leaves, the shape/color of their blossoms.  You have to realize that being able to “solve” the question about plants is nothing that I would choose on my own, but because of love for her, I am willing to invest time and effort to learn.  All relationships need time, attention, correction and renovation.  We are to be committed to our relationship with God through Jesus, no matter what, working hard to “solve” it, bring it to conclusion and fulfillment.  Philippians 2:12 – Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

On one occasion I hit a decent drive down the left side of the fairway.  I felt OK about the drive, it wasn’t terrible nor was it great, but I knew that everything depended on that next shot to the green.  I had about 135 yards to the hole, and since the green was uphill, I couldn’t see the hole.  But I could see the pin and the flag flapping in the breeze.

I didn’t do anything special, didn’t take any extra practice swings, didn’t breathe a special prayer under my breath, I didn’t even mumble to myself “Just don’t screw up too badly.”  I just did what I’ve done thousands of time before, swung and hit the ball.  As the ball left the club, I thought “Oh no, I’ve hit it too hard.”  After a few seconds then there was that distinctive “clunk.”  “Oh no” I thought again, “I’ve hit the pin and the ball ricocheted into the next time zone.”  Somewhat dejected, I approached the green.  Since I hit the ball too hard, and heard the “clunk” I immediately started looking beyond the green for my ball.  Then I heard a loud scream.  Someone in our group discovered the ball in the bottom of the cup for an eagle-2.  We laughed, high-fived, taking pictures on our cell phones to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime achievement (a.k.a. luckiest shot of my life).  But the best news of all – I have a witness!

Now I’ve never hit a shot like that before, nor am I likely to do it ever again.  But it is a vivid reminder to know what your goal is, aim at it and take action towards it.  As memorable as that shot was, it’s nothing in comparison with knowing God through Jesus Christ.  Living daily with him; moving towards goals that focus on developing that relationship, becoming more like him day by day.

Now that’s worth a scream, high-fives all around and celebration.

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