Does sport really imitate life?

Wednesday , July 02, 2014 - 11:43 AM

I may be committing something close to blasphemy, but in spite of all the hoopla and hullaballoo over the 2014 FIFA World Cup going on right now, I find it more than difficult to get involved with that. I know that soccer is becoming more and more popular, and even on days like Father’s Day, the soccer fields are filled with kids playing – and dads coaching! So even though I have not been a soccer fan in the past, I am getting more excited as the World Cup tournament moves towards its finale.

But one sport in which I actively participate is the game of golf. I enjoy playing that game, even though it is one of the most frustrating games a person can ever play. But there are a few reasons why I enjoy this game – (1) It takes time. Golf for me is a mini-vacation. I can spend a couple of hours out on the golf course, or even at the driving range, and my thoughts are centered on “the next shot,” not on anything else. I can be totally consumed with the game and playing better at it. (2) It requires mental toughness. Now most sports require mental toughness, but when a person is not doing well in other sports, he must bear down physically as well as mentally. In golf, when a person bears down physically, he will perform even more poorly. Golf is a game where the more relaxed physically you are AND the more mentally tough you are, the better you will play. (3) It rewards togetherness. There are several sports that you can enjoy alone. Golf is one of them, but the rewards for playing this game together with others are tremendous. The one thing I remember about my father growing up was that golf was one of the things that he enjoyed, and golf is one of the main things that we did together. In fact, it is one of the last and fondest memories I have of what my Dad and I did together. We played nine holes together on our home course, Fairgreens Country Club outside of Jackson, Ohio, and at the end of nine holes, my father wanted to play more. Neither of us were playing very well – my Dad had a most wicked slice – and well, I was almost exhausted, but we played a few more holes before calling it a day. But we did it TOGETHER! Whether standing on the tee preparing to hit that little white ball out into the “wild, blue yonder” or walking down the fairway, or lining up putts, or, yes, even looking for balls in high weeds and deep forests (been there, done that!), being with friends is one way to grow and be accountable and enjoy the game as well.

Someone once said that “sport imitates life.” And in this case, I believe that is true, for those three principles are very important for each of us in our daily lives, and our relationship with God. Our relationship with God, to be growing, and to be effective, takes TIME. We cannot expect to develop a growing, intimate, and personal relationship with God by simply giving Him the leftovers of our day, a few morsels of time here and there, a few minutes of our week or even month. An individual cannot truthfully say that he loves God and never spend any time with Him. One cannot declare that her relationship with Christ is a priority relationship and yet never spend any time in Christ’s Word, the Bible, and the only time she prays is when there is an “emergency.” Then when God does not answer the prayer just the way she prayed, she gets mad at God for not caring! Our relationship with God requires time. One cannot read the psalms without seeing that the psalmist spent a lot of time with God – morning, evening, at meal times, at play, at war, in times of prosperity and in times of trial – he saw his relationship with God as something of value and something worthy of investing time in.

A relationship with God also requires mental TOUGHNESS. God doesn’t want us to simply say “yes” to him in some sort of computerized, cookie-cutter mentality. But He does want us to respond with our minds to His Word in such a way that we are desiring to OBEY Him. But I must tell you that the harder I try to obey Him, the more difficult it becomes to actually do so. Like the game of golf, though, the more we relax in His arms, the more effective we will be. And to relax in the arms of the Lord, especially when the world around you is telling you to bear down and try harder, takes mental and spiritual toughness.

And last, a relationship with God rewards TOGETHERNESS. Both through corporate worship, and through personal accountability that keeps us intent on concentrating on that relationship with Him, we discover that a relationship with God is an endeavor in spiritual teamwork. Proverbs 27:17 declares that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Our relationship with God was not meant to be done in isolation.

The Apostle Paul said it best when he stated, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1). And just like golf, that act of worship requires TIME, TOUGHNESS, and TOGETHERNESS. So, hit ‘em straight and long this week, will ya?

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette.

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