Growing up without a TV provided some extra time in my life. After my chores were completed, I would fill those hours with three things — reading, baseball, and dirt bikes.
But I never took up golf.
My reasons for a golf-less life are twofold: 1) I preferred sports with a little more spirit, and 2) I despise plaid pants. This formula had no doubt saved me from many sand traps, not to mention the horrors of a new wardrobe. I soon learned however, that most of life’s activities have their own brand of hooks and slices.
When I turned 18, I had saved up enough money to buy a brand new 1978 Yamaha YZ 250 racing bike. Riding and racing motocross became a real passion of mine from 1978-1983. I still have a dirt bike today, though I keep my wheels a lot closer to the ground than I used to (I am convinced that climate change is making the ground a lot harder).
Here’s the point of my story. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul compares the Christian life to running a race and boxing. Three points are made in that chapter.
- First, do your best. Be in the Christian life to win!
- Second, discipline ourselves for salvation.
- Third, salvation is the ultimate prize of the universe.
Doing our best means putting God first. Away with any notion that we can grit our teeth into heaven. Accept the fact that God loves to accept you, and He is out for your best good. We are not alone in this Christian marathon. Doing our best means seizing the beautiful vision of salvation and never letting go of it. It means getting out of bed in the morning and admitting that we can’t save ourselves today. Doing our best means looking up towards heaven and saying “I need you.”
Discipline means laying aside things that can mess up our journey. It means conditioning our minds with Scripture (Psalm 119:11) and prayer (Luke 21:36). It means more than saying no to those deep fried bacon-wrapped Oreos, and that second bowl of Chocolate frosted Sugar Bombs. It means eating for fuel instead of fun. Or closer to home, it means not letting food become a god, and muscular atrophy a way of life. It means not watching things that glorify the enemy’s kingdom, and not filling our minds with the empty calories of mysticism and sensationalism. I have yet to hear a successful athlete thank gluttony and sloth for his success. How much more should we who are being fitted for heaven, discipline ourselves for it? And an earthly athlete’s crown is only temporary, which brings us to the third point.
Salvation is the end-all prize of life. Getting to spend eternity with Jesus is going to be unspeakably marvelous.
Not to mention the thrill of standing with Daniel, Joseph, Job, Nebuchadnezzar, and David. When we hear those words “Well done thou good and faithful servant” every cell of our being will sing with life as never before. “Heaven is cheap enough” (Great Controversy 566).
So these are the three things that I gathered from Paul’s illustration in 1 Corinthians 9.
And there is one other point that I learned from my own experiences that is worth mentioning, as I close. When we accept God’s call to salvation, many of us bring into our Christian experience — scars that we collected before Christ. Additionally most of us pick up various wounds — even after becoming believers — as a tangible expression of Jesus’ warning that we would have trials and tribulation in this life. Just looking at a person, you can’t tell what arrows have pierced their heart. And God knows every spot that has marked your heart with pain. And He has the solution for it. Whether your pain is a self-inflicted wrinkle or an arrow shot by others, there is a Lamb without spot or wrinkle to heal our hearts (Luke 4:18). Jesus will not only take the sin away, He will show us how to pay the price of the pain that others have caused us. This means that we give up all hope of changing the past, and He allows us see those experiences from the perspective of heaven. As you forgive, so will you be forgiven (Matthew 6:12-15).
Some externally beautiful people are carrying a lot of ugliness deep down inside them. And some of the most spiritually beautiful people in the world are those who have walked through deep waters. This is the wonder of God’s ability to change a life.
Just looking at me you couldn’t tell that I have four titanium screws in my left ankle, various healed ribs, a lump on my right collarbone where the bone overlapped, and a left knee that is slightly numb just under the kneecap. Each of these physiological “souvenirs” is a token of my twenty-five year motocross career — a career that I still look back on affectionately. But I am getting older and the time to hang up my Tech 8 boots is getting closer.
To add insult to injury, my orthopedic doctor suggested recently that I take up golf as a pastime.
Perhaps I should. How do you think I look in lime green pants?