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I love golf. I have been playing since I was a teenager. For about 30 years I didn’t swing a club and now that I am retired, I am able to get back into the game.
My game hasn’t been as good as it was: no surprise there. However, I should be capable of playing what we call “Bogie Golf” and I am getting closer to that goal.
What’s this got to do with anything? I’m getting to that.
When I pray, I constantly ask God for better self-control so that I can pray as David prayed: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer” “(Psalm 19:14.) I have often written how God always answers prayer, and sometimes (in my life) he has told me that when I ask him to change me that he will, but I have to work at it, too. I have to learn to call on his Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to help me achieve that change. This is what happened to me earlier this week while playing a round of golf- God answered my prayer by giving me the opportunity to practice self-control. Here’s what happened…
I was playing a pretty good game for our 9-hole round (league play) but starting at the 6th hole I screwed up a number of shots and ended up with a really bad score for that hole. I got a little teed-off at myself, and from that point on the game went downhill at an alarming speed until I ended up with a score that was nearly 10 strokes higher than I usually get. For 9 holes, no less!
I was angry, using language I shouldn’t, and smacking my club into the ground (at least I wasn’t throwing it like I did when I was a teenager.) I was also embarrassed because later, after cooling down a bit, I realized that I failed to do what God had been giving me a chance to do- be acceptable before him, and also honor him by acting in a way that others would see my self-control, which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23.)
Needless to say, I apologized to my golf partner for my actions next time we got together, which was two days later to play on a different course.
I am patient with others when I teach but I confess I have little patience with myself, never accepting less than what I think I should be able to do. So, on my way to this next game, I was praying and asking forgiveness for my lack of self-control. I also asked God to continue to help me, and that’s when I knew, yes I just knew, that I was going to have another bad game. Not that I wanted another bad game but I knew that even though he is God of all the universe, he would give me another chance to show that I could pass the test. Which meant that, no matter how hard I tried, I was going to hit into the water, duff shots that I shouldn’t duff, find nearly every sand trap on the course and probably end up with another really lousy score.
But this time I was ready for it!
(I did have a lousy score, again, but not as bad as the other day and this time I maintained my self-control throughout it all.)
This story is the reason today’s message is about being careful what you ask for. God always answers prayer: sometimes it is “OK”; sometimes it is “OK, but not now”; and other times it is just plain “NO!” The tricky part is that when God is willing to answer our prayers, his answer isn’t always what we expect or when we expect it, but it is always just what we need, just when we need it. God answered my prayer to have better self-control by giving me the opportunity to work on it through my golf game. At first, I didn’t realize this, and that is why I failed so miserably at it. Through more prayer and the leading of the Ruach, I was able to discern what really happened that day I did so poorly: God was answering my prayer. I asked, he answered and I messed it all up. I wanted God to just intervene, to just re-wire my brain-housing group so that I would automatically have better self-control so I could be more like he wants me to be.
I forgot how a long time ago when I asked God to change the way I think about something, he gave me this answer: “It doesn’t work that way.” He gave me the insight to see that the way it’s done is we each have to work at those things we ask God to change in ourselves. It is up to us to work with God to make that change happen. And God will provide the opportunity, which is why we need to remember that through the experience of having tsouris in our life, even something as insignificant as a golf game, we can learn how to channel his Spirit to overcome our troubles.
I am somewhat proud to say that I was able to figure this one out fairly quickly and hope that going forward I will remember when I ask God for something to remain always on the alert for his answer.
I recommend that you do the same.