I love to golf! The reasons are many but occasionally everything seems to be going my way, the proverbial ducks-line-up-in-a-row, and I beat my average score by 10+ strokes! Typically, during these outrageous moments of elation, I keep adding the strokes to see if I made an addition mistake and chuckle to myself and others I’m playing with that it is the best day I’ve had in a long time!
This one particular day was going so well. I was already down about 5 strokes from the norm including a par on hole 5, but on hole number 6, the wheels came off. I drove the ball into the pond twice! Talk about a show stopper! (If you’re into emojis this is where you insert a cry face.) So, since I blew the opportunity to score well, I decided to drop a ball just in front of the pond for practice.
It was as hot as a sauna that day, and my palms were excessively sweaty. I took a full swing and before I knew it my club flew out of my hands and landed in the pond behind me about 25 feet. I just stood there in disbelief with my jaw dropped wide enough to catch a whole colony of flies and laughed impulsively, like when you bang your elbow.
After a vain attempt to retrieve the club, my focus was gone like dust in the wind. I felt like a frustrated child trying to tie their shoes for the first time, and from that point on digress I did. Hole after hole my drive lacked oomph, the fairway shots were off to the right or left, chipping became misses, and the only thing that seemed to come together was putting.
Perhaps you could call it a calamity of errors that day, but golf is unpredictable that way. Sometimes we just have to push through the hard stuff to get to the good, even the pros have bad days. For most amateur golfers like me, just making that one great shot will keep you coming back. In fact, one of the golf instructors once said to me after I voiced frustration, “Just remember your last best shot.”
Philippians 3:12-17 says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. “
Paul or Saul, prior to his conversion, had his hands in the torture and murder of Jesus’ disciples, so he had plenty of memories to hold him back (Acts 9:1-2). After his conversion, he knew the strains of life and yet he persevered even with a thorn in his flesh that clearly could have swallowed him up in doubt (2 Cor. 12:1-10). Maybe on a relatively smaller scale, our circumstances, failures, and even craziness of life could hold us back, or even plant doubt; muddying our purpose here on earth if we become driven by feelings. Paul chose to push through these struggles with best shot words which are very relative for us today.
Personal. Paul said, “ButI press on to make it my own …” These words reveal a personal responsibility. We have to take responsibility because no one else can do it for us. Humorously, I will say to my golf companions after they hit a great shot, “Will you hit my ball for me now?!” This personal ownership develops the character of a fruitful life over time. Peter says it this way, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement yourfaith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if youpossess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
Forget. Paul says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward …’’ The implication, as the golf pro reminded me, is to not look back and allow those really bad shots to keep you from making progress; but, just purposefully remember the best one. For example, my best shot is the moment I choose loving words when I don’t feel like it, putting others before myself, overcoming personal temptation, and maybe tangible actions like bringing a greatly appreciated meal to someone. Perhaps, like me, there may be days when you can’t recall a best shot. I have kept most of the thank you notes and emails people have sent me for over 20 years! It is an reassuring reminder on a day I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. Designate a drawer or storage container for notes or an email file and write an account of your best shot in a journal.
Press On. The words press on in the phrase, “I press on toward the goal for the prize,” is defined as follow after even through persecution. Our goal as believers is to actively live out Christlikeness no matter what. If my goal is to win the coveted Women’s Club Championship; I have to practice towards that end even on the days I can’t seem to do anything right. We’ve all heard the saying, “Good practice makes perfect.” The truth is, good diligent practice leads to remarkably noticeable improvement. It is intentional activity with a goal of reaching for success. If my goal is to be like Christ it will start with relating to Him in a personal quiet time and intentional application. This practice overflows into our actions regardless of what’s going on around us. Ask yourself: Does my daily life lead to eternal goals?
Reveal. Paul says, “Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you.” While learning golf, during a couple lessons they videoed my swing. It showed me where my swing needed to be tweaked, some minor grip adjustments, and even my feet placement to the ball. I learned a lot with 2 videos because I’m a visual learner. God speaks intimately to our hearts in the mirror of His Word (Ps 119:105), in reflective prayer (Ps 119:26) and sometimes; it is through a trusted friend who will say it like it is (Prov. 27:17). It is good to give this friend permission to reveal your Christlike temperature. Ask your friend this question: Do my words and actions look like my goal is pursuing Christ?
You’re probably wondering what happened with my golf club. Well, my husband and I went to the lake later in the day and he got in the murky water and dredged the area with a grating rake for over 30 minutes, but no club! However, the following day we went out and played nine holes. As we were driving up next to the lake, I looked over and to my surprise; the red cap on end of my grip was sticking out of the water! I was so excited, and this time Joe didn’t even have to get in the water. He just reached it with his ball retriever and pulled it out (video posted on Facebook Ministry page). He definitely got an A for his effort!
What does your best shot look like? I would love to hear about it.