Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Follow-through

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.    Philippians 2:12-13  NKJV

I don’t believe that I have ever mentioned that I have a younger brother, who, if you are in any way interested in the game of golf, possesses a handicap so low as to make ninety-nine percent of golfers turn green with envy.  I have had the opportunity to caddy for him in tournament play as well as play alongside of him and can readily attest that his skills are quite impressive.  These are even more so if you compare his game to mine, which more often than not resembles outtakes from any number of comedies about golf.  Of course, as an expression of brotherly love, he has often tried and failed to help my game improve which I will readily admit is a reflection of my limitations and not his teaching skills.

One of the basics of the perfect golf swing, as well as in other sports, would be what we call the ‘follow-through”.   This describes the motion of the body after impact, in order to not only complete the transfer of maximum power to the ball to achieve distance, but also direct it to where you want it to go.  This was one of the first things my brother tried to help me work on with my swing but as you might expect, after much analysis and instruction, my first attempt to follow- through in a manner that would reflect my newfound knowledge resulted not in a beautifully long drive down the center of the fairway but rather a long and protracted visit to my chiropractor.  Such is my golf game.

As believers, it could easily be said that our decision to accept the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our personal point of impact.  It is the point in time where our lives are eternally changed and our standing before God the Father and our eternal destiny is forever guaranteed.  We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit as a source of power and wisdom to help guide us as we live the new life that the Father has chosen for us according to His purpose.  Yet from this point onward, much like a golf swing, our follow-through will determine and reflect the quality of our service to God.

In the passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, believers are admonished to “work out”.  This is the Greek word "katergazomai", which means “to work out”, or “to do that from which something results.” When Paul tells the Philippians they need to "workout" their salvation, he is simply telling them that as believers, it is time for them to stop relying on his (Paul's) help since he has left them, and to begin to rely on God's help through the power of the Holy Spirit to live their lives in such a way as to glorify God. Of course, the passage begins with the word “therefore” so we know he is referring to the previous verse where he is talking about being like Jesus.

Why is this important?  Simply because Jesus chose to be obedient to the Father, even to the point of death.  He wasn’t forced to do it but rather did it out of love.  Personally, what really strikes me as being most important in this passage is the last four words; “for His good pleasure”.  I often hear the question “how can I please God?”  Paul tells us here it is by being obedient to His commands and working and striving always to reflect the presence of God in our lives.  In order to achieve greatness in any endeavor you must make the commitment to work hard at it every day.  Paul’s advice to the Corinthian believers explains the level of this sort of commitment.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.   1 Corinthians 9:24-25  NKJV

Do you look at your life as running a race?  While my golf game leaves a lot to be desired, as a runner in college I learned quite a bit about just how much planning goes into running a race in order to win.  My approach was unconventional, and often confusing to my coaches and opponents, but ultimately successful.  I ran to win and I can assure you that you can never stop training or take a day off if you want to succeed.  When Paul says to live our lives as if we were running a race, he is telling us that not only are we to run with the total effort it takes to win, the race is not over until we receive our crown in heaven.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14  NKJV

As believers, we should always be thinking about our follow-through.  Are we committed to living in a manner that pleases our Father in Heaven?  Is our priority living according to the example Jesus set for us?  Do we daily remind ourselves that we are to be a shining example of God’s love in the darkness of this present world?  Paul makes it clear that it will be a struggle that will last as long as we are part of this world, but he also makes it clear that we have the power to overcome living inside of us.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21  NKJV

The apostle John uses the word “overcome” more than anyone else in describing believers and the power we have available to us. 

I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.  ! John 2:14  NKJV

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.  1 John 4:4  NKJV

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 5:4-5  NKJV

I may not have what it takes to overcome the deficiencies in my golf swing, but as a believer I have all the power I need to overcome this world and follow-through on my desire to live according to the example Jesus set for me.  In so doing I run the race as if to win, and please my Father in heaven.  What could be more satisfying than that?  How hard are you working on your follow-through?

Keep watching.