I enjoy playing golf. However, I have to admit I don’t get out but a few times a season. Needless to say, I am not very good. My typical routine is to mentally prepare myself to hit the ball straight, think through executing the proper technique, then hitting the ball into the woods. I try very hard to hit the ball straight down the fairway, but to no avail. Trying harder will not make much of a difference.
Good golf players take the time to practice and play often. A good golfer will go to a driving range and a putting green. They play round after round of golf. Their strategy is not simply to try harder, but to participate in the right practices to become better. It is an amazing thing to see good golfers put their skills on display.
I have noticed that many Christ-followers try to live the Christian life by simply trying harder. They get up in the morning and mentally prepare themselves for a day where they make all the right choices and say all the right things and then embark on the path of frustration littered with good intentions and regretful actions.
God has a better plan. Paul speaks to the believer’s strategy of living well in his first letter to the Corinthians.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).
Corinth was very familiar with athletic contests. In fact, the Isthmian games were held every two years by the city. Paul desires for every believer to run the Christian race like a winner. He further explains that if athletes are disciplined to prepare themselves to compete for a perishing wreath as a prize, then how much more ought believers be disciplined to prepare themselves to live as those who will receive the crown of eternal life.
Here is the point. The victorious Christian life is not lived by simply trying harder. A simple strategy of trying harder will lead to frustration every time. The winning strategy is found in partnering with the Holy Spirit as one commits to practicing spiritual disciplines (i.e., prayer, bible study, serving, fellowship, generosity). In other words, we engage in appropriate spiritual practices with the help of God’s Spirit. The lives of such Christians are an amazing thing to see as they put the glory of God on display.
The key to becoming a successful golfer is not simply trying harder, but a commitment to engaging the right practices to prepare for the game. The key to living the victorious Christian life is not simply trying harder, but, by the help of the Spirit, exercising the spiritual disciplines. As we do this we will discover that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the fruit of the Spirit, with be evident in our life (see: Gal 5:22–23). When we walk in such a manner, we will experience the life of freedom and fullness promised by Christ to every believer.
It is my joy to serve alongside each of you. Let us encourage one another not merely to try harder, but be committed to living in union with the Spirit as we engage in the spiritual disciplines. Such a life experiences freedom and fullness in Christ.