The other day I was playing Quarry Oaks. We were on the 9th hole of the Desert course, which goes over the water and around the corner. After 8 holes, I had a 41, which is pretty good for me. I was expecting about a 46 or 47. My first shot was fine, I got over the water, but it left me about a 180 yard shot to the green, over a hill which obscured my view of the green. With a good shot, it would be no problem to make the green or at least pretty close and in safe territory. I took out my 3 iron, gripped it tightly, determined to make it, swung as hard as I could, while gritting my teeth. It popped right into the hill, rolled part way down and came to rest on a slight incline and on gravel. I hit it again from that spot, trying even harder to get it out and over, but missed completely. After another shot, I took a lift onto the grass. Once again, I hit it hard and topped it and it rolled almost into the next creek. After that things got a little better, but I ended up with a 10.
My son-in-law is a golf pro and I have played with him many times. My problem of hitting too hard is an old problem and he has talked to me about it many times. He tells me, relax your grip, swing smoothly and not so hard and let the club do the work. Then, in order to demonstrate the lesson, he lets me shoot and I get an OK shot away. Then he takes my club, swings with one arm with a gentle shot and the ball goes farther than mine.
My son-in-law has been teaching me not to try so hard in golf, not to swing with all my might. God has been teaching me a similar lesson in my faith life. The Bible says in Isaiah 40:31, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Again we read in Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” And in a similar way 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
These truths have become very precious to me.
These truths need to be experienced in many aspects of our life.
Of course, we understand it in regards to our salvation. Not everyone does, but if we have understood what it means to be a Christians we do. Many in the world want to come to God on the basis of a works religion. Jewish people still think that if they obey the law, they will find favour with God. Many others, when asked if they are going to heaven, will answer “I hope so.” Their reply indicates that they believe that they have to do something to earn their salvation.
But Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden , and I will give you rest.” As Christians we understand that salvation is a gift, that God has done it all. We know that it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by faith in Christ that we are forgiven and receive eternal life. Even though this gift is so wonderful, many believers still have a hard time understanding that the gift is given and fully theirs. When we reflect, we know that salvation is none of our work it is utterly a work of God.
But do we understand it in regards to our struggle with sin?
At the Manitou Golf Course, the ninth hole has always been a great problem for me. Because I swing too hard, I have a slice. When there is a west wind, which there often is, my slice is compounded on that hole, so I have thrown a lot of balls into the field adjacent to that hole. However, I have begun to learn not to swing so hard and my slice has almost disappeared. As I have learned the lesson of letting the club do the work, I have begun to overcome the sin of slicing.
Certain sins are persistent. We seem to have a problem with them over and over again. Perhaps you don’t have these kind of problems, but I do. I don’t want to sin, but it seems that over and over again, I yield to the same sins. In certain areas, I have finally gotten to the place where I brought the problem to God. I told God that if anything was going to change, He was going to have to change me. I told him that I couldn’t shake this thing and He was going to have to change my heart. I am not perfect and the sins are still there from time to time, but it is not the same as it used to be in some areas. I am having victory and the same temptations do not bother me the way they used to. God has changed my heart.
Now this is not to say that I don’t need to obey. It doesn’t imply that I don’t take responsibility for my actions. I still need to obey God, but I don’t do it alone. I have asked God to add His power to the struggle with sin and I am learning to rely on His power to change me.
Psalm 119:166 says, “I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands.” That verse puts it in proper perspective. It is a matter of obedience, but also a matter of relying on God, of trusting Him for our salvation.
God has promised to make us into new creatures. Do we let him do that?
I also wonder if we understand this truth in regards to our relationship to God?
Sometimes we look at our relationship to God as something that we need to maintain. We must work hard or God won’t come to us and God won’t draw near to us. Of course, it is true that we need to take time with the Lord, but do we realize just how much God wants a relationship with us? Do we realize that He loves us and desires to draw near to us? Instead of working so hard at moving towards God, we need to learn to wait upon the Lord and allow Him to draw near to us.
Isaiah 40:28-31 promises, “Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”
Instead of seeing our relationship with God as a time of hard work, let us see it as a time of waiting for the Lord. The promise of God is that when we wait for the Lord, He will give us strength.
Furthermore, do we understand it in regards to our ministry?
Having been a pastor for about 26 years now, I know full well the temptation and tendency to do God’s work in my own power. My wife and my children already know me quite well. They know that when I have a project in my mind that I can’t quite figure out, I wake up at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning to work at a solution. Perhaps we have a desire to see someone come to Christ and we put enormous pressure on ourselves to make it happen. We are concerned about the children in our group or class and we want desperately to see them grow and change. But try as we might, the person we want to come to Christ doesn’t. The children we want to change, don’t. We become frustrated in all our efforts, which, after all we are making for God and His kingdom.
That is when we must remember that we need to rely on God. The apostle Paul learned this lesson when God slowed him down with a “thorn in the flesh.” At that time he learned, as we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
It is wonderful to realize that God is in the midst of our weakness. How wonderful to have God’s strength when we are weak. He will see us through because God does work on the basis of grace and his power is demonstrated when we are weak. It is so necessary to be weak and to recognize our need.
When we know that we need God, then we can see God at work because He is strong when we are weak. Do we need Him?
Why is it so important to wait upon the Lord?
When David fought Goliath we learn some important things about waiting upon the Lord. When challenged that he would not be able to fight against the giant, David responded in 1 Samuel 17:37, “…Jehovah that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” He knew full well that he would not defeat Goliath in his own strength. He knew that he would only be able to do so if God helped him.
When Goliath laughed at him we read in 1 Samuel 17:45-47 that “David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and …the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” Once again we hear expressed the truth that God is the one who does it.
Waiting upon the Lord is important because it teaches us that we are in a dependent relationship. The worldly way of thinking is that we need to be dependent on no one. But when we remember that God is God, then we know that dependence on Him is a good thing.
When I was in high school, I did not like English. It was too much work and I hated the tedium of writing essays. When I graduated, I got a 52% in my final English mark. I would have gotten even lower, but I promised the teacher that some day I would read Moby Dick.
For the past 26 years, I have written an essay almost every week. Well, a sermon a week, but the same creative process, the same work required in study, the same tedium in writing is required for sermon writing as was required for essay writing. How in the world have I been able to do that? The only possible way is that God has done it in and through me.
II Corinthians 4:7, is a verses I remember from seminary. It says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” The reason I remember it from seminary is that we were told that an appropriate translation is “we have this treasure in “old crocks.” That is what we are. We are not highly skilled, impressive people who have it all together. We are weak, leaky vessels which break easily and are very human. Therefore, when amazing things happen through us and when people are saved and taught and encouraged and when churches are planted and camps built and lives changed through camp counselors, it is obvious that God has done it. It is clear that His power is at work.
When that is true, then the result is that the glory goes to God, where it belongs.
If I have pulled myself up by my bootstraps, then I am to be commended. If I have wowed people with my ability to sing or speak, then I am to be praised. If I have won God’s favour by all the good things I have done to appear as a holy person, then I should be honoured. But…If God has changed my heart, then God is to be glorified. If God has blessed people as I have struggled to serve Him, then the glory goes to Him.
If God has made me his child and draws me to himself in a love relationship, loving me first and inviting me to respond, then the honour goes to Him.”
This is the truth in Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
I’m hoping that my golf game will improve as I learn to let the club do the work. I would love to have a game some day that is near par. But, because I don’t do it often and because I am past my golf prime, it probably won’t happen.
I rejoice, however, that I don’t have the same pessimism about my faith life. I know that as I learn to wait upon the Lord and allow His power to work in and through me, I will grow and I will become more effective in ministry and I will draw closer to Him. I rejoice in this because then the glory will go to God.