I love to golf. I remember when I was a kid, my Dad would take me into the backyard and we would have our own little par 3. He would put a pitching wedge in my hand and have me aim for the corner pole of a baseball backstop in the green area behind our house. I used to take 3 different balls and have my own PGA Tour. One ball would be Phil Mickelson, one would be Tiger Woods and one Payne Stewart. I had a piece of paper and would keep score. Every tree I could find would become the next hole.
For anyone else who is a golfer, you know how frustrating, and yet rewarding, golfing can be. You can slice every shot off the tee, skull every iron in the fairway and 3 putt every green, all the while wondering why you wasted 45 lousy dollars just to put yourself in a worse mood than you were before you started.
But then it happens.
You connect with that one shot so perfectly. You do everything right. Your hips are square, your eyes are on the ball, your backswing is fluent, and smack! You hit the best shot you’ve ever seen. It’s the one shot that makes you think you could be a pretty good golfer. The one that makes you come back.
I love hitting a perfect shot. I’ve found that, the majority of the time, I hit a perfect shot when I do everything with total focus. From my practice swing, to my breathing, to my follow through, everything is consistent and focused. In fact, I find myself getting into trouble when I allow myself to take a shot after I’ve rushed things. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked up to a ball and hit my shot when my feet don’t feel right, or my eyes see a dragonfly in my peripheral vision, or I hear the guys on the next green cheering. I’m easily distracted. And when I allow myself to be distracted, yet still try to accomplish what needs to be done, I find myself making mistakes.
Isn’t that how ministry is? I believe that men and women who are called to be leaders are big targets for the enemy and that one of Satan’s biggest weapons, along with discouragement, anger, pride, and money, is distractions. In many stories in the Bible when something huge happens for the Kingdom of God, there is a distraction or temptation right before the victory.
Satan used this tactic on Jesus in Matthew 4. Before Jesus even began his 3 years of ministry, Satan tried everything he could to distract and to tempt. Consider Nehemiah during the rebuilding of the wall, when the Jews’ enemies were surrounding them – mocking, insulting, and threatening their very lives. Even Paul, through his many shipwrecks, beatings, and jail time, endured trials, temptations and distractions. Yet the success always came when the focus was on God. In fact, it was much more than focus that was given to God. The results were given to God as well.
I’ve heard it said that Satan wants 3 things. One, he wants your soul. If he can’t have your soul, then he wants your testimony. If he can’t have your testimony, then he wants to rob you of your joy.
Now, how does that even happen? It happens by taking your eyes off of Jesus. The enemy of your soul distracts you from the work being done. He distracts you from those who are constant encouragers in your life. He distracts you from ministering to those in need. He distracts you from keeping your commitments. He distracts you from the things in life that make you smile. He distracts you from your family time. He distracts you from your rest. Or, worst of all, he distracts you from your very time with the Lord.
The biggest danger is when we allow ourselves to be completely distracted, trying to be effective leaders while on autopilot. We come into work with heavy hearts, frustrating thoughts, and weary hands. Then, we give whatever we have left to serve the Lord and the people around us.
Sadly, this kind of service is what can many times make following Jesus not look that beautiful. We feed people leftovers. We don’t listen well. We are more focused on our problems than we are on meeting the needs of others. We are spread so thin that we miss the intimacy of Christ in all that we do. Dwayne Carson, a former Campus Pastor at Liberty University, always used to say, “Don’t get so caught up in the work of the Lord that you miss the Lord of the work.”
From the moment we get out of bed until the time we go to sleep at night, we are in a battle. But praise God – He has given us everything we need! 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 says, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
So, what do we do?
Trust the Lord. Put on the armor of God. Spend more time with Jesus. Practice encouragement. Follow, and obey. Fight through the distractions.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
The next time you find yourself standing over the ball and your feet don’t feel right…or you spot something in the corner of your eye…or you simply want to take another practice swing…Take a step back. Get focused. And then hit a great shot!