Then Jesus said to his followers, “If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me. Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me will find true life. It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost. You could never pay enough to buy back your life.” – Matthew 16:24-26
Q:What’s the difference between a recreational golfer and a recreational Christian? A: The recreational golfer seldom misses a weekend tee-time….
Wednesday I took the day off and drove into Virginia to meet my friend Tim Black for golf and the opportunity to catch up. Tim served on the pastoral staff with Rebekah back at First Presbyterian in Brandon, and now co-pastors a church outside of Philadelphia. We’ve only seen Tim and his family three times since we left Florida in August of 2013, but they will always be an important part of our lives.
The golf course was beautiful, and tricky, and we played at a completely relaxed pace with almost the entire place to ourselves. It was fun to play; but, rather than try to fit in conversation between shots, it was the golf that was incidental.
I struck the ball beautifully, hitting long and in the fairway most of the time. But I had no “touch” around the greens. Several times my drive left me less than 100 yards from the flag, then it took me another five inelegant whacks at the ball to find the hole. I could blame Tim and say I was distracted by great conversation, but the fact is there’s no way to have a good short game outside of commitment, practice, repetition, and simply getting out there on a regular basis.
I’m a good athlete, and I have the basic idea; but I will never be really good at golf if I’m not willing to approach the game with intention and with time. But that’s okay, because I choose to to value other things.
SO WHAT? So why am I writing about golf this morning? Well, God speaks to me through just about every situation, and I couldn’t help but think about how many of us who claim to follow Jesus are not even seriously recreational when it comes to the practice of our faith.
If we want to be the kind of disciples Jesus intends for us to be, and if we want to be part of faith communities defined by passion and growth, then there’s no other way to get there outside of commitment, practice, repetition, and simply living faith out loud on a regular basis.
A couple of years ago, addressing a group of more than 200 men at a conference, I asked this question: “When Jesus looks at our lives, and the way we live our discipleship, does he say, This is exactly why I was willing to give everything, and to be nailed to the cross! Or does Jesus say, I hung on the cross for this?”
An effective, faithful, cutting edge Christian life does not just happen because we like Jesus, or because we go to church once or twice a month. Following Jesus takes commitment, it takes daily prayer and study, it takes investing ourselves and our resources in the community of faith, it takes practice and repetition.
Jesus wants all of us; everything we are, everything we have, everything we hope to be. Discipleship is a choice, and mostly it’s tens, scores, hundreds, and thousands of small choices, moment by moment, every single day.
“If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me.” – Jesus
In love, and because of love – DEREK