Gary Player was one of history’s greatest golfers, boasting nine major championships in the 1960s and 70s. He was renowned, too, for his quote, “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” which he then explained to the person who glibly claimed he would give anything to hit a golf ball like Player did.
“No you wouldn’t,” he reportedly said. “You’d give anything to hit a golf ball like me if it was easy.
“You know what you’ve got to do to hit a golf ball like me? You’ve got to get up at five o’clock in the morning every day, go out on the course, and hit one thousand golf balls.
“Your hand starts bleeding, you walk up to the clubhouse, wash the blood off your hand, slap a bandage on it, and go out and hit another thousand golf balls.
“That’s what it takes to hit a golf ball like me.”
Discipline is important for anyone wanting to get to the top of their game. Many are content with just getting by, which might be okay if we weren’t also aspiring to greatness, which comes in three important ways.
1. Greatness comes through a series of intentional behaviours
For Christians, training ourselves to be godly, as advised in 1 Timothy 4:7, is not about deciding to be great. It is not mere hope that achieves the result. Faith is the substance of hope (Hebrews 11:1) and needs action (James 2:17).
The original Greek text of the Timothy passage reveals that ‘training’ is the word from which we derive ‘gymnastics’. There is little doubt that willpower alone will be insufficient in taking an average individual to performing artistic somersaults on a narrow balance beam or elegant twists on the gym rings.
Training implies systematic, routine and intentional disciplines. This is never as attractive as the joy of a great experience, but it gives far more permanent and beneficial change.
The term ‘discipleship’ similarly originates from a word from which we derive ‘Mathematics,’ a study learned in small, incremental steps. Maybe there is something to this!
Most people’s desire for greatness is never fully realised, because they fail to eat the elephant of growth one intentional bite at a time.
2. Greatness comes through spiritual empowerment
Disciplining ourselves can include deliberate positivity and cheerfulness, daily devotional habits, a determination to eradicate language we wouldn’t be proud to utter in every sector of our lives, or elimination of unhealthy social or moral influences. The list of possibilities is endless.
Of course, none of these examples will themselves ensure godliness. They can actually accompany a certain amount of judgmentalism or legalism, especially when expectations are easily, self-righteously, or just unwittingly, foisted upon others.
They can, however, resemble personal growth goals that enhance the Christian life that simply never proceeds with mere persistence. In fact, it is relationship with God that underscores a Christian faith. This needs us to ‘walk in the Spirit’ in order not to ‘fulfil the lusts of the flesh,’ as Galatians 5:16 advises. This passage goes on to enumerate the examples of spiritual fruit that naturally proceeds from the life of those who do enjoy the Spirit through a relationship with God that is not just experienced. It is also enacted.
3. Greatness comes through connectedness
Whether we intend it or not, our worldview shapes us. It can be an eclectic mix of values where customisation may even have people live with inconsistencies (such as embracing atheism, whilst accepting the substantial gaps in evolutionary theory by faith).
A systematised and objective belief system cannot be dismissed wholesale by poor examples of its practice. For example, child abusing clerics are condemned, not encouraged, by the virtues of Christianity.
A culture of shared ownership of any vision inspired by a well-considered and articulate worldview necessarily utilises the different gifts and strengths of its adherents. Christianity, for example, offers a consistent belief system that celebrates diversity of expression to offer a synergy that benefits every individual.
That’s why we can serve or submit our way to greatness. It is a community pursuit by which we leverage our own excellence in the company of those we inspire or are inspired by.
A church is a greater whole than is suggested by the sum of its members. Each member’s greatness is thereby enhanced by the sort of belonging that costs us something, but rewards us with ever-increasing growth.
We see, then, that greatness requires intentionality in behaviour which is based in heartfelt belief and outworked in community belonging. Relational strength is found in a vertical relationship with God and an accompanying transformation of horizontal relationships of inter-dependence. God might provide our fire, but we also purpose to keep it in the fireplace with all the other burning logs to generate optimum heat!
What is your next move, then? Could that step be the first of many more in your journey to a preferable destination which may not actually be as distant as might previously have been imagined?