Links Daily Devotional

The Golf Tip You Don’t Need

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10, NASB)

The other day I was watching golf on TV when a commercial for one of the Golf Channel teaching shows came on. The ad took the form of a “quick tip” for hitting iron shots with more accuracy. Naturally I couldn’t wait to try it.

Two days later I did, and with not-so-good results. I’m sure the tip itself was as accurate as the iron shots it purported to help produce, but it was a tip I didn’t need–and I should have known that. After all, the day before I saw the tip I had played in a tournament and had hit a high percentage of my irons quite well, with at least five approach shots within easy birdie range.

Did that deter me from trying it anyway? For most golfers, that’s a rhetorical question!

My guess is that the same thing has happened to you. You’ve jumped on a tip you don’t need, and it has actually hurt your game rather than helping it. Here is hoping you abandoned the tip in short order and recovered quickly!

That same thing may have happened to you on the spiritual side of life. Not that golf isn’t spiritual, of course, but here I’m talking about spiritual maturity–growing in righteousness, becoming more Christlike, and gaining wisdom. Through the ways you have been taught and put into practice, you are growing as a follower of Christ. Some days (like golf!) the progress seems slow or non-existent, but one day you make a decision or take an action that is beyond what you have thought of as your level of spiritual maturity, and you realize you are growing up a little. Very cool.

Then along comes someone with a tip about how to grow spiritually, and you think you must try that. After all, the instructor is an acknowledged expert in the field, has great credibility, and truly wants you to grow. All that is true for the Golf Channel instructor too. Just as he doesn’t know me or my golf game, the Bible teacher doesn’t know you or your level of spiritual maturity.

As a long-time teacher and a former pastor of spiritual maturity, I can tell you that in the absence of the teacher and student being together, much greater discernment is required on the part of the student. All a teacher can do in a TV show or a book or a video series is address issues and talk about solutions that have helped some people some of the time.

When I get an e-mail that promises to help me cure my slice, I delete it. I don’t have that problem, so I know I don’t need the solution it offers. Do I have that kind of discernment in my spiritual life? Can I truly go after the things that are excellent and not find myself languishing on the plateau of mediocrity, hoping to find a quick fix that will make me rise to the heights of Paul overnight? Am I challenging those in my fellowship and asking them to challenge me? Is my reading, my thinking, my praying, going deeper? Am I on a diet of milk or solid food (Hebrews 5:11-14)?

Discernment is both a measure of maturity and a means to greater growth. Whether you are a beginner or scratch in your walk with Christ, I urge you to think carefully about the tips that entice you, the leads you follow, and the choices you make. Doing so will eliminate a lot of unproductive side trips, and it will put you squarely on the path of righteousness.

Lewis Greer

May 28, 2013

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