Links Daily Devotional

When Darkness Looms

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both morning and evening sacrifices. (Ezra 3:3, NIV)

In preparation for an article on confidence in this year’s Links Players Magazine, I had a long conversation with Dr. David Cook, a top sport psychologist and friend of Links Players. You may know Dr. Cook as the writer of Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia and its new sequel, Golf’s Sacred Journey 2: Johnny’s U.S. Open.

Dr. Cook is all about confidence. See the shot, feel the shot, trust the shot—then go! Great shots are built on great mental images.

But before we could talk about confidence, we had to make note of the fears that contend with assurance. It was in this context that Dr. Cook spoke of playing a round of golf with a successful tour pro. They came to a par-3 that demanded a shot that the player insisted he did not have. He was, in fact, afraid to hit the shot required, because the consequences of the miss—a dive into the adjacent water hazard—were so severe. Dr. Cook was amazed. Here was a PGA Tour player who could not get past his golfing fears!

So how does the good doctor help athletes escape crippling disabilities like this? He teaches them to replace anxiety rather than strategize against it.

Intriguingly, we encounter open fear among God’s faithful remnant in the pages of Ezra, a small Old Testament book about the return of the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem after 70 years in Babylonian captivity.

These returned refugees had one great desire: to start again. And their absence from the land for so many years had caused them to prize their greatest cultural edifice: the temple of the God who governed them. They wanted to show God thanks for their safe return, and the way they saw best to do this was to rebuild his house.

This mission was not without opposition, however; for the Jewish absence had allowed many other peoples to find courage in this same land. Now that the Jews had returned and intended to reestablish their foothold, these new territorial leaders weren’t happy. And their disdain showed through. The Jews knew their presence and their purpose was unwanted. As only a small cluster of people, they had reason to fear, so fear they did.

But against this fear, the people began their work at rebuilding the headquarters of their worship. They knew that if God were to bless them, above all things they needed to be about the business of worshipping him. So they replaced their fear with faith—faith in the one who had called them, faith in the calling itself, and faith to do the work of that calling.

We don’t have to deny our fears. We need to recognize their presence and choose a better mentality. The finest replacement for fear is faith. Let God have your faith. Persist in worship. See how far that gets you!

Jeff Hopper

September 12, 2013

Copyright 2013 Links Players International

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