Training Table — Fruit of the Spirit (Week 7)

Monday

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Statistics: Selfishness and Selflessness

Statistics can be scary. I’m satisfied with my college golf career as a whole, for example, but I’m not satisfied with my average. I carded several rounds in the 70’s and even a few in the low 70’s. But then there were the other scores. My senior season, no lie, I shot a 73 and a 98 in back-to-back tournaments. Yes, the 73 was on a sunny day with little wind, and the 98 was in an all-day sideways sleet that made my hands feel like they’d been injected with Novocaine. But the bottom line was that I went from flirting with par to barely breaking 100, which made my average somewhere in the mid-80’s, which made me gag. Statistics make me gag.

If I could translate my thoughts to statistics, I think I’d want to gag, too. I wonder what percentage of my thoughts are about myself—my wants, my needs, the things that are bugging me, the way people are treating me—and what percentage of my thoughts are about others. Thinking about myself is probably the only thing I’d get an A in, actually. I could post that grade up on a refrigerator.

I’m selfish. You’re selfish. The works of the flesh according to Galatians 5:20 are all inherently selfish acts; and there is an ongoing war between the flesh and the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Fulfilling the desires of the flesh leads to selfishness. Fulfilling the desires of the spirit leads to selflessness. What are your stats?

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Tuesday

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:3 

Love

When I interviewed PGA Tour golfer and Australian star Aaron Baddeley (featured in this magazine) at the Wells Fargo Championship this year, he had an interesting quote about the game of golf: “We always need to grow in our character, and this game is pretty much the best at doing that. This is a character building game.” It’s true. No one gets into golf expecting to master it—you can’t master it. No one gets into golf expecting to whiz through it. You can’t. You get into golf because you love it and want to get better in the process.

Love is the same way. I think I used to like “love” because I liked being loved. It felt good to have someone care about you—whether that was a friend, roommate, family member, or girlfriend.

I’d play games. If I didn’t feel like my roommate was treating me right, I’d be cold toward him.  If I didn’t feel like my girlfriend loved me, then I wouldn’t love back. Then I realized that my version of love wasn’t love at all. I was just making trades. I was a jerk.

Like golf, true love—whether it’s in a friendship, dating relationship, or marriage—should make you better through self-sacrifice and humility. True love, as I Corinthians 13:4-7 says, is not self-seeking.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Wednesday

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

Joy

I have this friend who thinks the world is out to get him. No matter what it is, sometimes I’m convinced he truly believes he has it the worst on this planet. It carries over to sports, too. It’s always the net’s fault in tennis or the rim’s fault in basketball. It’s the referee’s fault or the coach’s fault. But I think the thing that bugs me the most about him is that I see a lot of myself in him.

A lot of times I think about how bad my life is, which is a lie. I think about my job—how it’s not perfect. I think about my relationships—how they’re not perfect. I think about my struggles—how I’m not perfect. I think about my finances—how I’m poor and I’m a writer and I eat Ramen. It’s stupid, really. It’s pretty miserable. Not the Ramen. My pattern of thinking. Okay, the Ramen, too.

I think dwelling on our problems makes us miserable because we’re thinking about us. In my self-consumed, problem-focused mindset, I think about one thing and one thing only: me. Trying to satisfy me, ironically, robs me of joy. In church the other day, my pastor said to tell your problems how big God is; don’t tell God how big your problems are. I liked that. In that process, I think, we become more selfless. Because I’m most joyful when I’m not consumed in myself.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Thursday

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Peace

I remember walking around Quail Hollow Club last spring watching the Wells Fargo Championship. I was alone. The weather was perfect. The course was gorgeous. I was doing a job I loved (reporting) in a sport I loved (golf). I can’t explain the peace I’ve felt in moments like that during my career, but they are moments I wouldn’t trade for anything. I don’t feel restless; I feel content. I’m not worrying about anything; there’s nothing to worry about.

I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

When I go to church, I usually have a similar feeling, that there, singing, studying, becoming a better man, I’m right where I need to be. A few Sundays ago, I got sick of it—I got sick of feeling so peaceful at church but so restless and uneasy throughout the week. I decided I was going to start treating God like a spouse instead of an acquaintance I check in with on Facebook.

It’s interesting that Isaiah associates “perfect peace” with those whose “minds are steadfast.” True peace falls on those who are abiding in God (John 15:4). Abiding in God is continual. And when we’re continually seeking Him, perhaps we’ll feel more at peace—because we’re right where we are supposed to be.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Friday “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8 

Patience

I used to take golf lessons, A LOT of golf lessons, but it’s tough to say that I wanted them. Golf lessons are like surgery followed by intense physical therapy followed by more surgery. Sometimes, I think I would’ve rather just swung the club on my own, honestly. You can only undergo so many surgeries before you think you’ve got some sort of problem.

My golf instructor’s name was Brian. Whenever I had a lesson with Brian, I sometimes felt like someone was cutting me open and working on my heart. Seeing your swing on video is humbling because you realize how bad it looks to everyone else, and making changes in your swing is uncomfortable, like biking in boxers.

When you’re making major swing changes, it all just feels really weird and unnatural. There were times I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. There were times when my scores went up instead of down. And there were times when I wondered if the whole golf lessons thing was a scam.

But the thing about Brian was that—when I trusted his agenda and allowed him to shape my swing—I never regretted it. In the long run, it always made me better. He wanted what was best for me. He wanted me to improve more than anyone, including myself. I don’t take golf lessons anymore because Brian taught me so much and helped me conquer my bad habits. Also, my parents no longer pay for it because I’m 24.

I like what it says about patience in my ESV Study Bible. “Patience,” it says, “shows that Christians are following God’s plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work.”

Sometimes life is like surgery. It’s embarrassing. It’s uncomfortable. But God never said the Christian life would be easy, and there are times I desire to leave it and do my own thing. But He does say that His way is better—that, in practicing patience as we trust His agenda, He shapes us.

—Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Weekender

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Going Long

Read Matthew 5:9 and meditate on what it says about peacemakers. How often do we have the opportunity to make peace (in a personal situation or between two feuding people) and, instead, choose to fuel the fire with our cutting remarks or heated comments? How important is it to God that people choose to make peace?

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