Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9, ESV)
I had the opportunity to give a lesson to a friend’s son recently. He wants to play high school golf for the first time as a senior next spring. He has never played, and the odds are against him, but in just over an hour he was able to go from consistently missing the ball to hitting a 9-iron up in the air. As we were coming to the end of our practice balls, he looked up and said, “This is probably the most fun I’ve had all summer.” His smile exposed his joy.
I had a felt sense of joy from this new golfer’s enthusiasm. Reflecting on our time together, I recognized the similar experience for new followers of Jesus. They are usually enthusiastic, open, light-hearted, persistent, and joyful. Being around a new believer’s childlike faith as they see, believe, and rejoice in Jesus for the first time is like receiving a booster shot of joy when you’re around them.
Back to golf for a moment. Over time, golf demands attention, time, and practice in order to improve. The initial enthusiasm fades into frustration and mental fatigue; yo-yo ups and downs tend to set in. The scorecard entices us to turn our focus away from experiencing one shot at a time and experiencing the game and the little improvements along the way.
If you’re anything like me, my spiritual journey with Jesus has been similar. The initial “new believer high” fades quickly. It’s easy to set our focus on the end, the salvation of our souls, but fatigue and spiritual burnout steal our joy for the Lord in the midst of the hardships of daily life. Like golf, we must remember that spiritual growth takes time, effort, and persistence. Faith expands a little bit at a time.
During the fall of my third year on tour, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. In the middle of “being grieved by my trials” (1 Peter 1:6), I wrote today’s scripture passage in my journal. I didn’t feel joyful or rejoiceful in that moment, but there was something about Peter’s words that encouraged my soul to remain steadfast.
I also wrote these words by Larry Crabb that particular day in September of 1997: “But God is most fully known in the midst of confusing reality.” Terminal cancer is a confusing reality. So are the many challenges our family, friends, and neighbors are experiencing right now. We have obtained the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls, through Jesus, but we must also choose to see, believe, and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible a little bit every day… even if our joy is as small as a mustard seed.
August 13, 2020
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