Luck, a hole-in-one, practice, and more frequent “God-Sightings”


Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
    so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
    for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path. – Psalm 119

IMG_2916Thursday the rain held off long enough for me to enjoy a fun round of golf with friends from our church. With temperatures in the low 70’s, the beauty of the North Carolina landscape, and the occasional good shot, it was the perfect afternoon.

The was one moment – lasting around five seconds – when I seriously believed I was going to record a “hole-in-one.” The hole was a long par three, measuring 188 yards. I launched a 4-hybrid, and the flight of the ball never once wavered from a direct line to the pin. My ball landed on the front of the green, then rolled up toward the flag, where it rolled directly over the right half of the hole, grazing the flag stick, before coming to rest.

All three of us standing on the tee held our breath, all expecting the ball to drop. When it didn’t, someone said something about the only difference between a great shot and a hole-in-one being luck. So I thought about that, and I have to say it’s not true. Pro golfer Phil Mickelson explained it best in an interview right after he holed out on a par-three in a big PGA tournament. The exchange went something like this:

  • Interviewer: “Well, Phil, they say the only difference between a great shot – and yours was a great shot – and a hole-in-one is nothing but luck.”
  • Phil: “I hear what you’re saying, Brent. But you know what I’ve discovered?” (and here he leaned in a little toward the commentator offering the back-handed compliment). “What I’ve discovered, is that the more I practice, the better I play; and the better I play, the luckier I get.”

Phil politely put the TV commentator – who I’m guessing has never scored a hole-in-one in his life – in his place. But he also reminded me how critically important the discipline part of discipleship is if we’re ever going to be truly effective followers of the Living Way of Jesus.

GOD MOMENT: One of my favorite exercises at church is to ask people to share with the class some moment during the past week when God seemed present and active in their lives. God sightings. Nothing huge, just a simple report:

  • “I witnessed God’s hand at work in the worship service Sunday morning;”
  • “God surprised me with peace when I really needed it;”
  • “The dinner date I had with my wife had God all over it;”
  • “I talked with a friend who needed prayer, and I was able to pray for him…”

IMG_2914Three things always get to me about the way people answer this question. First, the beauty of a shared testimony. Second, how surprised people are when they realize the fact of God’s presence in everyday life. And, lastly, how many people think back over the past few days and can’t come up with a thing!

Here’s my point. People who can easily share such powerful moments, and share them on a regular basis, don’t run into God by accident. No, they routinely put themselves in a place where they are more likely to witness what God is up to, and where they are more likely to be active participants in God’s kingdom initiatives.

And that, by the way, is what “salvation” is all about. Salvation means to participate in the ongoing work of God, to be partners in God’s plan; it’s about receiving the grace that Jesus offers and then living as if a restored relationship with God actually makes a difference in our day-to-day lives.

HOLE-IN-ONE? Back to Phil Mickelson’s comment about the odds of being “lucky” increasing as a function of practice. So, what kind of spiritual practices tend to result in more “chance encounters” with God?

  • Daily prayer;
  • beginning each day in the presence of the Creator;
  • regular Bible-study;
  • singing hymns;
  • a thankful heart;
  • reaching out in love to a hurting world;
  • generosity;
  • sharing faith with those we love;
  • talking about our love for Jesus;
  • telling our story;
  • living our story;
  • serving one-another…

IMG_2918Or, saturating our moment-by-moment with the presence of God.

And that list is just for starters. In other words (everyone-who-wants-more-God-Moments-in-their-life) what I’ve discovered is that, “The more I practice, and the better I play, the luckier I get.”

Certainly something worth thinking about – DEREK


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