Denison Forum – Patrick Reed wins the Masters: How focus changes everything

It was nearly a Masters for the ages. Jordan Spieth began yesterday’s final round trailing by nine shots. No one in the history of the tournament has ever won from such a large deficit. Spieth actually tied for the lead late in the day, but Patrick Reed held on to win his first major title.

I have been privileged to attend the tournament several times over the years. Television cannot do justice to the difficulty of Augusta National—the narrow rolling fairways, the glass-like greens, the extraordinary precision required to navigate the course.

Patrick Reed survived the pressure yesterday. His victory showed that shutting out the massive crowds, the television cameras, and the burden of winning the most prestigious tournament in golf is essential to success. The Masters demands the best of its champions, as it should.

A troubling New York Times article

Meanwhile, police arrested six people yesterday who are suspected of planning to attack spectators at a half-marathon in Germany. The lead suspect reportedly wanted revenge for the death of Anis Amri, the terrorist who drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing twelve people.

In other international news, President Trump condemned a suspected chemical attack in Syria, warning that “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.”

Closer to home, I was distressed to read an article in the New York Times titled, “What Sleeping With Married Men Taught Me About Infidelity.” The recently divorced author arranged numerous sexual encounters with married men through social media.

She doesn’t feel guilt over her affairs: “My attitude is that if my spouse were to need something I couldn’t give him, I wouldn’t keep him from getting it elsewhere, as long as he did it in a way that didn’t endanger our family.”

The article is categorized in the Times under “Modern Love.”

“We are far too easily pleased”

In a world like ours, it cannot be business as usual for followers of Jesus.

The daily threat of Islamic terrorism shows us the need for spiritual awakening in the Muslim world. The latest atrocities in Syria spotlight the global cry for peace and justice. Our culture condones immorality that would have been unmentionable in public a generation ago.

Never in my lifetime has it been so urgent that Christians live up to our identity and calling.

My thoughts today are prompted by this reading from Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest: “When our Lord rose from the dead, He rose to an absolutely new life—a life He had never lived before He was Incarnate. He rose to a life that had never been before. And what His resurrection means for us is that we are raised to His risen life, not to our old life.

“One day we will have a body like His glorious body, but we can know here and now the power and effectiveness of His resurrection and can ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). . . . The Holy Spirit is the deity of God who continues to apply the power of the atonement by the Cross of Christ to our lives. Thank God for the glorious and majestic truth that His Spirit can work the very nature of Jesus into us, if we will only obey Him.”

The Holy Spirit wants to mold us into the character of Christ in every dimension of our lives and influence (Romans 8:29). He is working to demonstrate the “fruit” that portray our Lord to our culture (Galatians 5:22–23).

But Chambers is right: he will do this “if we will only obey Him.”

If you and I pray for the Spirit to manifest the presence of Jesus through us today, he will answer our prayer. Conversely, if we choose to separate Sunday from Monday and relegate the Spirit’s work to the “religious” parts of our lives, we can.

Our Father’s invitation is clear: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, my emphasis).

In one of his most famous statements, C. S. Lewis noted that “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

How focus changes everything

Patrick Reed won the Masters because of his focused commitment to his purpose. Does our culture need any less from followers of Jesus? Does the One who died that we might live deserve any less than our wholehearted, unconditional commitment to him?

I saw a poster last week that caught my eye. It depicts what golfers call an “island green,” a hole on a peninsula surrounded by water. The caption reads, “Focus: The ability to block out the unnecessary brings the goal within reach.”

What, or Who, is your focus today?

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