Links Daily Devotional

Peaceful Practice

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, ESV)

Weighing in at 1.62 ounces and no less than 1.68 inches in diameter, the American golf ball intimidates golfers of all skill levels, including the pros. This inanimate, stationary object has the capacity to send us into a sympathetic state of fright, flight, or freeze. Sweaty hands, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, trembling, and hyperactive butterflies rage war within as we place the ball on the tee and stare down the first fairway.

Out of the hundreds of competitive rounds I have played, the strongest first tee anxiety I felt was at the 2006 U.S. Women’s Open in Newport, Rhode Island. The first round had been delayed a full day due to fog and we were all feeling antsy. The weight of the week grew with the anticipation of 36 holes to be played on Sunday. The towering stands around the tee were overflowing with excited golf fans. I can still remember the surge of nervous energy that pulsated through my body as I emerged from the tunnel beneath the stands and made my final preparations to begin the first round of play.

Inside my yardage book, I always carried Scripture verses to read and memorize as I played. Setting my mind on the things of the Spirit helped me stay grounded during the emotional ups and downs of competition. Today’s words from Paul to the Philippians were some of my favorites, and I memorized and repeated them frequently.

Breathe. “Do not be anxious for anything.” Breathe. “But in everything let your requests be known to God.” And so I prayed… “Lord, help me focus and enjoy this moment. Help me hit a good drive.” Breathe. “And the peace of God is guarding my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” As my anxiety calmed and the butterflies started to fly together in formation, I was able to trust my countless hours of practice that prepared me to hit this tee shot. I hit a beautiful drive down the left-center of the fairway and although I appeared calm and collected, internally I did a double fist pump and started thanking Jesus.

When we get God’s Word in our bones and speak it, our hearts and spirits are able to settle into shalom (peace), enabling us to overcome any circumstance we might face. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I read and quote God’s Word for selfish reasons. I want an immediate fix to the pain, loneliness, anger, doubt, negativity, contempt, and shame I often struggle with, instead of moving into the deeper places of my heart.

As I reread the verses around today’s passage, my eyes were opened to more. Paul first sets the stage and proclaims, “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice” (v. 4) so that our reasonableness (gentleness, patience) will be known to others (v. 5). Paul must have known this is not easy when we are in the midst of challenges, because he then encourages us to pray and receive the peace of God to will guard our hearts and minds. I don’t believe Paul is saying we should ignore the wounds of our hearts, but he does give us a practical guide to find a place of respite. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (vv. 8-9).

It takes practice to stand on the first tee with confidence. It takes practice to live out what we are learning and hearing in the Word of God. It takes practice to follow Jesus. Keep practicing!

Tracy Hanson
July 3, 2014
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The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.