The sport of golf has a unique way of simultaneously being the bane of my existence and a source of great joy. While I am relatively athletic enough to naturally play a variety of sports, the sport of golf is not one of those. Don’t get me wrong; I would love to excel at golf. But for some reason or not, it’s just an ongoing battle.
A couple months ago I was playing a round of golf with a good friend who is a great golfer. He’s the kind of golfer who visualizes where he wants to hit the ball and when he swings, it goes there (in contrast to me, who visualizes where I want the ball to go, and it often goes in the opposite direction!).
Toward the end of the round I turned to him and said, “How are you so good at golf? And why am I so bad?”
And he asked me a great question: “Josh, how often do you practice golf?”
I said, “Well, I’ve been trying to take it more seriously, recently, so I try to play as much as I can!”
He said, “Josh—that’s not what I asked you. I know you play as much as you can, but how often do you practice?”
Suddenly I realized his point. And it was a good one. I play golf as much as I can, but I don’t practice golf very often. There is a massive difference between playing golf and practicing golf. Until I start practicing golf more regularly, it’s impossible to expect anything to ever change!
The same is true with our faith.
Think about it: it’s really easy to “play” Christian, isn’t it? We can go to church and attend Christian events on a regular basis. We might even say things like, “Well, I’ve been trying to take it more seriously, recently, so I try to go to church as much as I can!”
But just like there’s a difference between playing and practicing golf, there is also a difference between playing “Christian” and practicing our faith. Unless we wake up on a daily basis and invite the Holy Spirit to transform us, and unless we put in the work of discipleship to which we are called by the One who created us, it’s impossible to expect anything to ever change!
The frustrating news with both golf and faith is that change doesn’t take place overnight. As much as we’d like to be instantly better tomorrow than we are today, that’s just not how it works. It takes practice. It takes training. It takes commitment and intentionality.
But the more determined we are to be better followers of Christ, and the more we make discipleship training a habit in our lives, the more God is able to reshape us from the inside-out. Will we see instant results? No, not instant results. But just like with golf (or with anything in life, really), if we are truly committed to the process, the results will eventually show.