Monday Encouragement

“For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . .

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 24-25).

My Dear Ones in Christ Jesus Our Lord,

One of the most colorful characters ever to grace the world of sports was the late Spanish professional golfer Severiano Ballesteros, known popularly as Seve.

By the time of his death (of brain cancer) in 2011 at the age of 54, he had won 90 tournaments around the globe, and five Major Championships. In the process, he established himself as one of the most beloved golfers of all time. Anyone watching Seve play would be immediately drawn to his unique passion and flare, and equally amazed at the unbelievable creativity he possessed in navigating the hardest courses on the planet in his ‘go-for-broke’ style.

Seve was also known for providing some of the best quotes in sports.

Back in 1986 at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, Seve suffered one of the worst indignities a professional golfer can endure. He took four putts on one of the greens. Normally, a pro is expected to take no more than two putts per green. A three-putt is a disaster. A four-putt is unthinkable! After his round, Seve was asked by a reporter about that terrible hole and how he had managed to create such an embarrassing mess. His answer, spoken in heavily accented English, was simple: “I miss. I miss, I miss. I make.”

Well, by now you’re likely wondering where all this is going here on another new Monday. What does the Apostle Paul have to do with the Hall of Fame golfer Seve?

In Romans 7, Paul is writing about his own life and intense struggles as a believer. And what he records here is, frankly, hard to imagine. In fact, many Biblical commentators, convinced that these words can’t possibly be applied to a true believer, have argued that Paul is speaking of his life before He met Christ. The assumption is that no believer, and especially not a ‘hall of fame’ Christian like Paul, could ever describe his life in such stark terms.

Yet, this is precisely what the Apostle is doing! He is, in fact, telling the world about his daily battle to walk faithfully with His Savior and Lord as a Christian.

What Paul writes here is as unexpected as it is blunt. In embarrassingly honest language, we learn that this great man of faith experienced many ‘misses.’ Despite knowing the right thing to do, he would often fail to obey. As he states in verse 19, there were many times when he practiced “the very thing that I hate.”

As we track with him though verses 18-24, there is even the obvious evidence of despair in his voice, culminating in the heartrending cry, “Wretched man that I am!” To put it in Seve’s plain terms, Paul is telling us that when it comes to obedience to Christ, “I miss. I miss. I miss.”

I wonder how many of us can relate to such an honest admission about the nature of our life as a believer?

It’s no mystery why these inspired words from the Apostle Paul have supplied generations of Christians with both encouragement and hope. Simply knowing that a believer of the stature of Paul so frequently (and desperately!) struggled with daily obedience is comforting to each of us who can relate to such persistent inconsistency! How often our story is one of our ‘misses,’ not of our ‘makes.’

Yet, this is not all that the Apostle says!

Having laid out his Christian life in such brutal honesty, Paul concludes with the glorious announcement found in verse 25. The answer to the desperate cry of his heart, “Who will deliver me?” (v. 24), is “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Yes, it’s true that Paul, like each of us, missed, and missed, and missed yet again. But then, in the midst of all of that missing, there was Christ His Lord!

In Him, the One whose blood atoned for his sins and whose righteousness covered his transgressions, Paul triumphed! Day by day, oftentimes imperceptibly, the Apostle was, indeed, becoming holy and obedient. The pathway of his sanctification, often arduous and frustratingly circuitous, was nonetheless aimed in the right direction! There were, to be sure, many ‘misses’ along the way. But as sure as the sunrise, there would be that Day when he would ‘make’! His journey to Christ-likeness would be completed as guaranteed by the promises of God:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6) and . . .

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The encouragement for the day is this: Miss you will, and many times over. Yet, the perfect obedience of your Savior and Lord counts for you in God’s eyes! Every miss will lead you into a deeper understanding of His ‘makes’! To paraphrase Paul (Romans 5:20), where your ‘misses’ are in abundance, His ‘makes’ are in superabundance!

With such a grand promise in view, we can continue faithfully in this great contest, this ‘Major Championship.’ We can pursue greater holiness and obedience, knowing with certainty that, even as we miss, one day our Lord will set us free “from the law of sin and death” (Romans 7:25).

I’ll see you out on the course!

All my love,