When the pressure’s on

I’m a golf nut. I don’t play the game particularly well but I get a lot of shots in for my dollar! The US Masters finished this week. It’s known for exciting finishes and the test of nerve that it provides. If golf isn’t your thing bear with me just a moment.

With one round to go Rory McIlroy led by 4 shots. He had been superb all tournament but in the final round his nerves caught up with him and he had a shocker – shot an 80 and lost by 10 shots. Fair enough. He’s 21 and human. But Charl Schwartzel, also young at 26 and who’d never won a tournament this big, birdied his last 4 holes, shot a 66 and won by two. He said he never felt nervous.

What’s the difference? McIlroy played like he had the world on his shoulders, like he had everything to lose. Schwartzel played like he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. In other words he was free: free from expectation, free from pressure, free to enjoy a beautiful golf course and a happy crowd.

I took a funeral today for a man I didn’t know and who had real struggles with the Christian faith. Once upon a time I would have been stricken by nerves, anxious not to blow it. Not today. Today I knew I was supported in prayer, confident in my preparation and most of all, free because I am loved by God. No matter what happened in that Chapel today my heart was free because I was secure in the knowledge of God’s love for me.

When the pressure’s on we can relax because through Jesus the pressure’s off (there’s a Larry Crabb book by the same title that I highly recommend). We are free because we are secure in his love. Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” The person who lives out of the new heart will find this to be true. Once you’re secure in your belovedness, the freedom to love is the natural outcome. Pressure gets met by grace. Stress is met with love and worry is met with surrender. All the time? No, but more often? Yes. It sounds hackneyed but it’s true.

God loves me, I am free.

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