A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to golf in a tournament for the first time. Throughout the weekend, although I was pleased overall with the way that I golfed, I was not happy with my drives from the tee. I could usually get a lot of distance on the ball, but every single time the ball would hook right. It didn’t matter what club I used or what ball I tried, every time I swung from the tee, the ball would go right instead of straight.
After nine holes of frustration I took the advice of some of my fellow golfers and started aiming differently. I wasn’t going to be able to correct my problem that weekend, but I could change my aim to accommodate for it. So instead of lining myself up to hit straight down the fairway, I would instead “aim” for the bunkers or whatever was on the left-hand side of the hole. This strategy worked well, and for the rest of the weekend most of my tee shots ended up in the middle of the fairway—one even found itself on the green.
Even though changing my aim sounded like a simple solution to my problem, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, I really had to fight with myself in order to do it. Deep down I didn’t want to accommodate for my lousy shot—I wanted to correct it. I didn’t want to aim for the left because I still hoped that the shot would actually go straight. But I was in a tournament, and I wanted to win, so I made the change, and between that and my partner’s brilliant shots, we actually placed first in our flight.
As I thought back on this strategy, I couldn’t help but wonder why I don’t take the same approach in my spiritual life. I have shortcomings; I mean, honestly don’t we all? But all too often instead of swallowing my pride and making a small adjustment in my life, I “step up to the tee” so to speak and pretend that this time it’s not going to be a problem.
Really, what would be so bad about making some adjustments? I am becoming more and more convinced that it wouldn’t be so bad, but it does cost us our pride. Let’s face it, we all like to think that we have it all together and that somewhere deep down, we are really strong and spiritual people. It’s not easy to admit that we have a weakness, and it is even harder to admit that we can’t handle that weakness with our own strength.
This leaves us with two options. Either we can go through life and blindly fight our battles, stumbling all the while, or we can make some adjustments. Philippians 4:13 says, “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (NLT). Between Christ’s strength and making some adjustments, we don’t have to spend our lives face-down in sin and self. Yes, we still will have struggles, but we can be victorious in those struggles.
But we do have to make adjustments. Those who struggle with gossip may not be able to hang around with the same people they used to. Those who have a hard time staying pure online may have to cut their Internet connection or install some filtering software. Those who struggle with honesty may have to establish some accountability. We all struggle with sin, and therefore we all can make adjustments to avoid falling in that area. As Charles Spurgeon once said:
“What settings are you in when you fall? Avoid them. What props do you have that support your sin? Eliminate them. What people are you usually with? Avoid them. There are two equally damning lies Satan wants us to believe: Just once won’t hurt. Now that you have ruined your life, you are beyond God’s use, and might as well enjoy sinning. Learn to say no. It will be more use to you than to be able to read Latin.”
Making adjustments isn’t easy, but it’s definitely necessary if we hope to win both in golf and in our struggle with sin.