Links Daily Devotional

Keeping Up

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)

The instruction on the plaque by the first tee claimed to have come from the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews itself, and it carried with it that elegant understatement that made me believe it was so: “Your proper place on the course is directly behind the game in front of you, not directly in front of the game behind you.”

I’ve thought about that many times since I first read it years ago, and I’ve always tried to live up to it without pressing the group in front of me. But some days it just doesn’t happen. Recently, for instance, it was a cool 104 degrees and I was walking 18 by myself. As I was putting out on the first green, I noticed a single in a cart was behind me. Although I typically play fast and rarely have to let anyone go through, it seemed like the best move here. So I waited on the next tee (a par 3) and let him finish the hole before I hit. By the time I got to the third green he was on the sixth tee!

Too many golfers, I think, have the idea that they should simply stay ahead of the group behind them, not making them wait very much if at all. And too many Christians live their lives the same way. Let me explain.

You will recognize that “directly behind” and “directly in front of” are prepositional phrases. Prepositions describe a position relative to some thing. “You are standing too close to the ball” is a prepositional phrase sometimes offered by an instructor (if he goes on to say “after you hit it,” that’s just mean!).

Those of us who follow Jesus want to—or should want to—stay as close behind him as possible. What we often do instead, though, is find some other person or group and pronounce ourselves to be in good position because we are in front of them.

Aside from the obvious problem of being out of position on the course of life, there are two additional problems with ordering our lives in that way. The first is that we know nothing about the group behind us. They may be following the same Jesus we are supposed to be following, playing the same course by the same rules—but they may not be. They could easily lead us astray from behind, because if we are judging ourselves by them we are in fact following them.

The second issue is that we have taken our eyes off of the one who is to be our leader. Even in golf you can learn things about the way a course plays or the way the wind is blowing by watching the group in front of you. In life you can learn a great deal about relationships, about yourself, and about God by following Jesus closely and keeping your eyes open. You can’t do that if you have lost touch with the one you are supposed to be following because you are focused on those behind you.

Some days, though, following Jesus feels to me like he’s that guy in the cart while I’m hoofing it. It seems like I’m playing as fast as I can, but I just can’t keep up. Everyone who follows Jesus has been there once or twice, but God has not deserted us nor will he (see Matthew 28.20). Keep moving forward, keep your eyes focused on and stay directly behind the One in front of you, and press on toward the mark. Jesus is there, you’ll see.

Lewis Greer

June 17, 2013

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