Working Hard Without Success

Out of the Sand EB Aug 13

When I first picked up the game of golf over seven years ago, I was excited to get to play with my friend Tom, a buddy from college. I had only been golfing a few weeks when we met one winter on a course in the Chattanooga Mountains. I scored a 137 in the mountains that day and we did not even have time to finish all 18 holes! But five months later, I had been practicing every week on my day off, as well as golfing with my church’s small golf group. I had been going online, reading tips and watching instructional videos. I had even paid for private lessons! After five months of practice, effort and dedication I thought I was beginning to get my game under control. I was excited about meeting my friend Tom for a re-match. I felt confident, as I was more experienced now, and this time we would be on a course that was not in the mountains. I was looking forward to impressing my friend on the golf course.

My confidence went up a notch when Tom told me he had not played since our last meeting five months ago. I thought surely my five months of hard work would pay off. The first hole was a par 4 and I made it in 8. Not exactly what I had planned. Even though I get an 8 every now and then, I was sure I had gotten my “bad hole” out of the way, and I would sail through the rest of the course. Wrong! That day I scored an 8 seven times! On a par 5, I scored a 10! What I had been looking forward to on the entire 9-hour trip up was now turning into a major disappointment! Meanwhile my friend Tom, who had not even played or practiced all year, was cruising along just fine.

The worse I played the more frustrated I got and then I played even worse. I would get frustrated every time I had a bad hit and would yell at myself, “William!” until I realized I did not need to broadcast my name to the entire golf course while playing so badly. We decided that we could do no more than double par. So on one hole that was par 4, 8 would be the maximum number of strokes I could take to make it. I was at stroke number 8 while still in the middle of the fairway, nowhere close to the green yet! I yelled out to Tom across the fairway, “I am in the middle of the fairway and already have 8 strokes!” Only then did I remember that I did not need to broadcast my misfortune to the entire golf world.

On the next fairway I had a great start! I was on track to make par when I hit into a sand trap next to the green. If I could just hit out of the trap onto the green I could still make par. That never happened, as my next 4 strokes never left the sand trap. I was so frustrated I did something I had never done before. I threw my golf club into the sand in disgust! I had planned a vacation and traveled nine hours just to make a fool out of myself! At least I remembered to sincerely congratulate Tom, who easily made par on the same hole. He even mentioned how amazingly easy all of his shots just fell perfectly into place. Hhhmmpphh!! Why me Lord? Why can’t I be like Tom? I try so hard! The whole day was not a complete disaster. Besides enjoying a beautiful day with a long time friend, I did get par on the last hole which was a par 5. In the end though, my friend who has not even been practicing beat me by 16 strokes! I practiced hard for 5 months only to get beat by 16 strokes by someone who had not practiced at all!

I think I hid my frustration well, (besides throwing my golf club into the sand) but was very disappointed that I had nothing to show for all my hard work. Then I remembered reading something in the Spirit of Prophecy years ago. It was to the effect that while some people may have a lot of flaws in their characters, some of them are trying harder to live a Christian life than some of the so called polished Christians. I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me:

“William you are frustrated that Tom saw no evidence of your hard work and effort on the golf course. Meanwhile you are studying and associating with people all around you who are really trying hard to be better Christians, even though it may not look like it to you. Some of the people you get discouraged with are actually putting more effort into their Christian walk than you are putting into yours.”

Then I remembered how easily Tom’s par came to him on the same fairway on which I failed, even though I was trying very hard. I realized what I had experienced on the golf course, many struggling Christians are experiencing in real life. Just like I would try my best to do everything right and make the perfect shot, I was missing the mark by a mile. Likewise, just because people miss the mark in the Christian life does not mean God does not know they are trying, maybe even trying harder than the polished Christians. And He accepts their efforts.

I got the message. I decided that, instead of being discouraged over my nightmare on the golf course, I would use this experience as a reminder to be patient with others who are making all kinds of mistakes in life. Just like I wished my golf buddy could have looked past my three-digit score, and seen into my heart, and known what I was actually trying to accomplish, I will assume that those around me are trying harder to be a Christian than it may appear to me.

When I got home I looked for and found the quote I was thinking about earlier. Here it is from in the chapter called, “Love for the erring.” I recommend reading the entire chapter!

“While some are continually harassed, afflicted, and in trouble because of their unhappy traits of character, having to war with internal foes and the corruption of their nature, others have not half so much to battle against. They pass along almost free from the difficulties which their brethren and sisters who are not so favorably organized are laboring under. In very many cases they do not labor half so hard to overcome and live the life of a Christian as do some of those unfortunate ones I have mentioned.” Ellen White, Testimonies Volume 2 page 74 



Working Hard Without Success — 18 Comments

  1. I like where Ellen takes this thought shared with the one who has the easier, more experienced path to walk, whom she counsels to encourage those failing in themselves to have faith.

    A losing struggle calls for closer examination and greater exercise of faith, and the words of Jesus: "without Me you can do nothing" give us the direction in which to work; abiding in Christ. This the erring must be pointed to with kind, gentle encouragements. Rash, impatient judgments will never work and yet the failures are not to be allowed to continue without coming close to point to the Lamb of God who brings victory with His presence. Yoking with Jesus is the answer for every fallen child of Adam, and those who know the way should be kindly entreating others to follow it by precept and example.

  2. William,
    Sincerely, I do not get the point.
    Tom is more skilled than you, so he had an easy time.
    You kept on failing, and failing and failing, and discouraged, till the last hole, but dismally 16 holes behind the winner.
    You are more skilled than the struggling Christian, and win the prize?
    I do not get the point.

    • Hurford, I believe William was illustrating the vital importance of those who are advanced in faith to heed the counsel of Paul in Eph 4:2,3,"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace." and Gal 6:1. "Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself."

      • Exactly Robert.

        Hufford thank you for asking so I may clarify. The prize is given by God's grace and not by skill, so no that is not my point. As Robert said we need to be patient with others and realize they may be more earnest and sincere than what we give them credit for. The outward performance does not always reflect what is in the heart, as some things come more naturally for some than for others. God looks at the heart of each of us.

  3. Hypothetical, Robert is a skilled Christian, it takes no effort for him to live the law. There is nothing for people to speak evil of him, except he lacks a willingness to help those who most need help. He is selfish, he loves his home,loves quit, rest. Freedom from care, perplexities, and trials:...He has been quite liberal of means, but when it is necessary to deny himself to do some needed good, when real sacrifice on his part is called for, he has but little experience, and must gain it. Ellen White 2 Testomonies for the Church. Page 76, paragraph 1.

    Nicodems after Christ assended until His second coming, gave of his means to support the the work of the early Christian church. He also sacrificed his time to do some needed good. I can imagine if William were playing golf today with Nicodemus, Nicodemus would have given him pointers and encouragement to get that par more frequently. He would have helped William improve his swing so that by the 10th hole William would have been making par almost every time. Nicodemus would have helped William focus his eye on the ball all through the swing, forgetting his pitiful preformence. "My mother, and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice" Luke 8:21. Love one another not in word and speech but in actions(helping those most in need) and truth. 1John 1:18. We are admonished to give of ourselves to Christ. I do believe that giving of oursleves to Christ is giving of ourselves to those who have the most need. The one who is able to connect with Christ is the one we bypass for the the soul who is struggling to rely on Christ for his strength to overcome.

    • does Robert "live the law", while being "selfish"? The two don't go together. Self love and the Law are polar opposites. So I'm not seeing the analogy too clearly John. Seems like Robert is needing a mentor to show him the way of faith and self-surrender, pointing him to the Lamb of God.

      As for Nicodemus, he would have kindly pointed William to the Master Golf Teacher, after telling William his own story of how the Master had changed his game. After all, isn't that the only pointer we can pass on to others? Only the yoke of Christ will work.

    • I like the comment about encouragement. While reading I put myself in Tom's place. I would have tried to comfort my friend by telling him of my similar struggles when I was just learning (I imagine newbies generally have similar challenges); giving tips; or even slowing down so that I am not so far ahead of him. Most importantly, I would have pointed out that the early challenges are really preparation for future games. In a similar fashion, new Christians sometimes struggle and even get frustrated with the challenges they face making adjustments. The more mature Christians's role is to encourage and stay close to them in their journey.

  4. Great Illustration!
    We humans are very good at pursuing what we believe to be in our best interest that makes us look and feel better than the other person.. we are not usually willing to share with others what is inside that selfish head and heart so we struggle by ourselves: and God knows it all too well and has given us Supernatural Help. Thank you for sharing this story Will. As we grow nearer to Christ we will realize that we are helpless against our innate flaws constantly bolded by the enemy.Instead of trying so hard we will look to Christ and see to help our fellowmen who are under the same or worse yoke as we have... We ought to take on the Character of Christ and bear one another's burden instead of trying to impress them. And it is only through Christ we can put the best interest of others above ourselves like our Lord and Savior did at Calvary. We are not saved by our own efforts.. Thank God! Yet faith without demonstrated works of charity is dead. Christ is about to return so let all our energy be put into expanding His kingdom

  5. May be the story of the rich young ruler may help answer Robert's question. After Christ explained which laws he had 2 keep, the rich young ruler said he had kept all those. Yet Jesus told he still lacked something and told him 2 go and sell all give the poor. Christ was telling him and us that it is possible for one 2 fully be convinced that he is perfectly keeping è law (doing his best) while he's not keeping any (while he's doing the worst). In other words he is the worse sinner than other he looks done upon eg parable of the Pharasee and the Tax Collector.

  6. Great story, it’s just a reminder that in life our situations are different. Thanks for sharing this story.

  7. I remember my Christian friend struggling with sexual sin. It seemed easy enough for me and others in our circle. We couldn't understand why she just won't quit. But we all saw her heart and knew that she really wanted to do better. Turns out that my friend was abused from her earliest memory by her father. None of us was ever abused and so we did not have that struggle. Today my friend is freed from her addiction and doing great things for the kingdom of God.

  8. In contrast to the discussions of sanctification being the work of a lifetime, I find it amazing that EGW also states,(and I paraphrase) that if we would be dead to the world, living for Christ would be easy [Review and Herald, September 9, 1884, paragraph 2]. So getting dead and staying dead to the world seems to be the key concern.

    • Yes Michael, as Paul states in Romans 6; "...For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin."

  9. Thank you for the quote Michael, by paraphrasing it, that shows you understand what it is saying. That is good. Sometimes people share direct quotes while not fully understanding what the direct quote is really saying. That is why its always good to illustrate your understanding of the quote.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments. As we have gone deeper into sanctification I hope we are remembering the very simple but important point of this post, is just to remind us that just because it doesn't look like some one is trying does not mean they are not.

  10. Hi Tom, Golf is the addiction of choice for me i am a total golf tragic I got 5 sets of clubs including a left handed set, but like golf the Christian life has a lot in common 1-the harder you try the harder it gets still and know that I am God.
    2.-Count it a blessing when you find yourself going through trials.
    3-It's not starting or finishing that matters it's always the journey we learn from.
    4.Be slow to anger, self control, patience.
    5-Remember Peter in Gesthemane with the sword in his hand , he never knew the rules of how to play the game.
    And finally after all your trials finally got a par and your faith grew and you couldn't wait to get out and have another go , we grow in grace or we die in grace there is no standing still in Christianity , the same as golf...God bless and exhale when you hit the ball and keep your feet close and relaxed (Sam Snead tip I recommend)


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