The British Open is being played this week at St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland, the birthplace of golf. Some say, with one exception, they’ve been playing golf there since the 15th century! It was apparently banned for nearly 50 years from 1457 to 1502 because the king of Scotland believed the young men were playing too much golf to the detriment of their archery skills.
I enjoy watching the pros play, even if it means getting up before dawn to see it. A pro golfer’s ability to control the distance, direction, flight and spin of his ball is hard to imagine, especially if you’ve attempted the sport yourself. The only thing my game has in common with a professional is the size of the golf ball we use and the tee it sits on at the start of each hole. In most sports, the physical stature of the athlete is the telling factor, their speed, their size, or the strength factor. Not so with golf. Ricky Fowler won the Players Championship a few weeks ago. He is 5’9’ and weighs 150 lbs! Yet he routinely drives the ball beyond 300 yards…that’s half a football field father than I can hit it on my best day, and I outweigh him by 40 pounds.
Natural ability accounts for some of the difference no doubt. Then there is psychological bearing, coaching, and the hours of practice…lots and lots of practice. To succeed as a professional in any sport requires dedication bordering on obsession.
There is something to be said for “muscle memory.” Repeating the same well-rehearsed move over and over again is the key to consistency, and consistency is the difference between a winner and the competition. Muscle memory is the reason a player rehearses their swing over and over a few feet away from their ball before stepping up to their shot. They are helping their body remember how to play the shot. They are rehearsing the rhythm, swing path, weight shift and the foot work needed to be precise. If a pro misses the shot, a sports commentator – a former professional player themselves – is able to see and describe in detail the nuance of difference between the shot the pro intended to hit and what just happened.
Before you scream at me through your computer screen (Too late!?!) for talking about something as meaningless as golf, let me remind you God understood the comparison between muscle memory and spiritual development. You can learn a lot from any activity that requires practice, lots and lots of practice. Not just golf but any sport, playing a musical instrument, weight training, running, typing, martial arts, handgun accuracy, etc., etc.
In a letter to the Christians in Corinth, the apostle Paul made this comparison:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Pastor Garrett recently reminded us of the importance of fanatic discipline in spiritual matters. By establishing routines for prayer, devotions, worship, and Christian behavior, you will be able to withstand the next trial that is sure to come.
The chairman of our congregation’s Board of Elders is fond of saying, “I know this seems like meaningless activity just now. That’s because right now everything is going well. But it’s precisely when things are going well that we need to make sure things are in good order, so that when difficult days come, no one panics. (Then he usually adds…) “And difficult days will come. They always do.”
Are you squared away? Are you taking spiritual discipline for granted? Are you being faithful in prayer, Bible reading, worship, tithing, and Christian behavior? Difficult days are sure to come.
The apostle Paul was a leader in the Christian Church, but he never considered himself beyond the need for spiritual discipline. He used the peaceful times to prepare for the battles that were sure to come. He wrote:
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6
Muscle memory is a good thing. Spiritual discipline is even better.
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4
- List the things Paul advised Timothy to practice.
- What spiritual discipline are you most apt to neglect?
- Who, besides yourself, are you positioned to save?
When it comes to spiritual discipline I would score myself:
A. Much improved.
B. Needs work.
C. In a good place.
Click here to take the survey and take a moment and leave a comment based on your answer.
If you were unable to attend services last weekend and would like to listen to the message, visit our homepage at stjstl.net and click on Media at the top right of the web page. Growing Deeper, a Bible study, written to accompany the message series is also available to download.
St. John Church live streams Sunday services at 9:00am and 10:45am. Join us!
(Excerpts from Psalm 51)
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. …Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
There are 1000s of decisions to make while raising children. Choosing where your children go to school is an important one. Not only do you want the best education, but you want them surrounded by adults who have the same Christian values as you. We encourage you to come discover St. John School serving children from 2 years old through 8th grade. Schedule a tour or request more information about us today.
By next weekend, our Missions Team and volunteers will have The Commons transformed into the School Supply Shop. This isn’t about making it super easy to buy your kids’ back to school supplies. But, it is about helping a child at Bryan Hill Elementary School, one of our community partners, have the same excitement about starting school with all new back to school supplies. For just $35 you can give a child the material things they need to help them be successful at school. Our goal is 250 backpacks. We can easily do that! This is also a great way for your family to serve together by either helping set up the School Supply Shop or at the event next weekend. You can volunteer after service by talking to a volunteer in the lobby or through our website.
40 Days of Favor, our prayer initiative, is currently praying for courage to invest and invite. Get involved through daily prayer or one of the two remaining prayer vigils. Our next 10 day initiative kicks off on July 21.
Find out about upcoming programs and events at St. John Church.
Stephen Hower, Pastor
Challenging the status quo to awaken an appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:13,14 (and to lower my golf score)
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