Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Christian wins the Masters

Growing up in North Carolina, two things are paramount when it comes to sports. You had better like basketball, or better yet play basketball, and you had better like golf. Last week I had the privilege of doing Palm Sunday events for First Baptist Church in Pinehurst and they got me on Pinehurst No. 8, a truly world class course. I wish I could say the same about my game on the given day, but since I had only played eighteen holes thus far this year due to the terrible winter weather in Kentucky, I had to be satisfied with the odd par or two.

Growing up in the South also involves watching Christian athletes use their athletic prowess as a platform to bear witness to Jesus Christ. I have no problems with this if it is genuine and sincere, and there could hardly have been a more sincere 31 year old today than Zach Johnson, a Christian kid from Iowa who miraculously won the Masters today beating out Tiger Woods no less and dissolved into tears at the end. They asked him how he remained so calm and his response was honest "Really I wasn't calm, but its Easter, and my faith is very important to me, and Jesus was with me all the way." What the commentator had mistaken for Stoicism was not really about Zach's own steely self discipline. It was about Zach's trust in the Lord, and sensing His presence. Sometimes God's guys win. Hooray.

Does God care who wins some sporting event? Well some people will tell you no. But if God is anything like my father at all, who cares passionately about the things his children care about, of course he would be pleased when a Christian has a moment to glorify Him before millions of viewers by striving for excellence in his chosen field and giving credit to his Maker. Besides that, great Christian golfers who are now with the Lord like Payne Stewart must be smiling as well. And here's the odd thing about-- this was may be the best field ever and the worst weather ever at the Masters-- freezing temps and 30 mile an hour winds. If anyone should have wilted it should have been the rookies not the grizzled vets. And then there was another odd thing, call it a premonition.

Earlier in the day Nick Faldo, a rather crusty former British golfer and now commentator for CBS, and a person certainly not famous for being a prophet said on air: "I just have this sense that Tiger's going to put it in the water on 13 or 15 and then some young kid is going to win his first major championship." Well that's exactly what happened today.

Once Tiger put it in the drink on the back nine, there was no recovering, not even with a miraculous shot in which he swung a club through a tree trunk, breaking the club but still somehow advancing the ball up to the green. Maybe there's something to that Rom. 8.28 thing--- "God works all things together for good for those who love Him...." In any case the Master must be smiling about the Masters on the day the greatest miracle of all happen for him personally.


mafutha said...

Just a side note. Johnny Hart, Creator of b.c. and the wizard of id comic strips, passed away today. His Christian themed strips were always an inspiration to read in an atheist comic strip world. His desire to share his faith in visual form has always been wonderful and he will be missed.

Ben Witherington said...

I am very sad to hear this as he was my favorite since another Christian passed-- Charles Schultz.

Scott Bailey said...

I thought that Zach did a fairly good job representing his faith honestly.

As a slightly ironic sidebar: in his interview in the Butler cabin he said something to the effect that credit went to his coaches, and his sponsors, and to all the people that supported him, and that all the credit goes to Jesus. If you do the math that's a little too much credit but... Good job anyways.

Michael Gilley said...

Dr. Witherington:

I was just curious what you think about wrestlers and other fighting-prone sports gadiators who give thanks to Jesus? I don't agree with fighting as a sport, but at the same time.... Thanks for your imput.

M.W.Grondin said...

What about the other Christian golfers? Aren't they (or at least some of them) "God's guys" too? When Zach thanks his Lord Jesus for helping him win, what does that say about the Christian losers?

Ben Witherington said...

As for the other Christian golfers, yes of course they are God's guys as well, for them we may say at the moment "to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven..." Now if the Byrds will just chime in on the course with "Turn, Turn, Turn" with their electric 12 strings. In short, it must have been Zach's turn.



FrankDG said...

It was a great win for Zach. I've seen a lot of golfers melt under the pressure of the back nine on Sunday at the Masters. I was excited and blessed when Zach thanked the Lord.

m.w.grondin -- Zach's peace and composure were from the Lord and he chose to honor the Lord for that. That's awesome. God didn't supernaturally put Zach's golf ball in the cup.
Hopefully the other believers on the tour are rejoicing with Zach.

"In everything give thanks."
1st Thess. 5:18

"Rejoice with those who rejoice."
Romans 12:15

Shawna Atteberry said...

I watched the Masters, and I couldn't believe the weather--especially Saturday. Zach did a great job, and I loved his humility as he talked about Jesus and Easter.

You got to play Pinehurst? My dad would be so jealous. :)

Shawna Atteberry said...

I just read through the comments and saw that Johnny Hart died. Bummer. I love the wizard of id.

Shane Vander Hart said...

I don't think that God is inclined one way or the other regarding sports.

My son wrestles and before matches we pray not that he would win, but for safety for both guys wrestling, that God would help him to do the best that he can, and that win or lose God would be glorified.

1 Corinthians 10:31 - "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

I don't think it is about winning, but I believe that it is about giving God glory through our gifts and talents. Eric Lidell, the famous English distance runner said, "when I run I feel God's pleasure."

Ike said...

Dr. Witherington,

I also grew up in NC; High Point (near Charlotte). Do you happen to be a baseball fan? I digress, but it needs to be asked (I have a strange feeling that you are). If so, any favorite Christian ballplayers?