In the story, Johnny teaches the young pro powerful lessons about unleashing his true potential as a player and as a human being. Using many settings on and off the course at Utopia, he shares the secrets of a lifetime.
But his final and most important lesson is delivered here at the cemetery.
As Johnny and the young pro ponder the headstone inscriptions, Johnny asked the question that we all must face: "What will your epitaph say?"
What does your life stand for? What do you have inside that will last, even when your casket is lowered into the earth?
In our culture, a high premium is placed on success, achievement and performance.
What controls your life? Is it controlled by a golf score, by a bank account or by what's written on your business card?
Let me let you in on a little secret. Life in the end will be measured by significance, not a golf score. Significance will be defined by your character, relationships, values, virtues and faith, not by a golf score.
Years ago there was a man who spent his life dreaming about the big win, the day he would be heralded as the best. He was defined by what he did, and his livelihood depended upon his performance. He was a passionate man, a contender. He was a fisherman. His name was Simon.
Simon had just finished an awful performance. He had fished all night and caught nothing. He was a talented professional whose livelihood and reputation depended largely on his ability to perform. While he was washing his nets of defeat in the early morning, he began to eavesdrop on the powerful words of a nearby teacher named Jesus. Soon Jesus stopped and looked directly at Simon, asking for his help. The people were crowding in so much that many could not hear him teach. He needed a better pulpit from which to teach so he asked to borrow Simon's boat. Simon agreed and paddled him out a little from the shore. Jesus continued to teach as the crowd listened intently.
After a while he concluded his teaching. He now turned his focus to Simon as the conversation became very personal between two men. Jesus offered up a direct challenge to Simon. Little did Simon know that this challenge would eventually change his life and alter the course of human history.
I don't believe that we take into consideration the far-reaching effects that our everyday decisions have on our destiny, the lives of others, or the world as a whole.
Jesus looked Simon square in the eye and said, "Push out into the deep waters and let down your net for a catch." While all eyes of the crowd were on Simon, he felt the penetrating gaze of Jesus. What would he do?
I'm sure several things ran through Simon's mind. First, he might have reasoned that he was the fisherman and that he would know more about fishing and where the fish were than Jesus would. Second, the deep waters presented a significant risk to a small boat. Out there the storms come up at a moment's notice, the waves are big, and the winds are dangerous. Third, this was his boat; he was the captain. He always called the shots. What would it say to the people if he gave in, especially if he failed or got caught in a storm?
It is no different for you. The decision facing you is basically about who is the captain of your ship.
Simon answered the challenge by saying that he had competed hard all night and experienced great failure. In fact, hours of effort had ended in complete futility. Simon, in a move that probably surprised even himself, then said, "However, because you asked, I will."
It was an act of faith and obedience to the teacher, even though conventional wisdom frowned on taking the small vessel out into the deep, there was something about Jesus that stirred the heart of Simon. His teaching, his countenance, his personal challenge all moved Simon to trust. Little did he know that because the voice of the master came from within the boat, there was ultimately no risk involved in this venture. Jesus was going with him. The real risk was not to go.
Simon paddled out into the deep, a speck on the horizon for those on the shore. He then let down the nets and experienced something he had always dreamed of. He witnessed the greatest success of his career. The success was so overwhelming that he signaled to his partners to help with the catch. They caught so many fish that both boats began to sink.
It was during this dream come true, at the moment of his greatest triumph, that a paradigm shift took place. Simon realized for the first time that he was in the presence of the author of success. This teacher was indeed who he said he was, the son of God.
Simon's response was one of awe and fear as he fell to his knees among the mess of fish, sensing for the first time in his life that there was a God, and that he was in the boat with God's Son. When a person has that experience, the Bible says that the scales of unbelief begin to fall from their eyes, and they see for the first time the enormous chasm that exists between a Holy God and a sinful man. Initially, Simon was so overwhelmed that all he could do was beg the teacher to leave.
It was then that Jesus reached out his hand to Simon and said, "Don't be afraid."
Not only was the teacher the author of success, He was and is the remover of fear. While life is tough and the prospects of dying someday even tougher; the teacher offered ultimate security in an insecure world. Then Jesus presented a call, which is the same to all of us. "Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men."
Jesus gave Simon the offer of a life of significance. Would he take the challenge? Would he follow the call? Or would he stay with the fish seeing them as the path to opportunity and fulfillment?
Like Simon, each of us is at a crossroads. We have a choice.
You have a choice. You can measure your worth in dollars, in golf scores or with some other yardstick that will not endure. Or you can take a different road. On this new road you leave the fear of failure in the dust. Your identity is not tied to a game but to God. You will find your purpose not in a game or score but in a calling that has eternal implications.
The Bible states that this road leads to heaven, and that faith is the fuel that moves us from mile marker to mile marker. The first step is to realize that there is a God and that He is calling you to an adventure. The second step is to ask Him to forgive the sin that has kept you from this road in the past. The third step is to get in the boat with the Master, make Him the captain and push out into the deep waters. He will tell you where to fish. The outcome is in His hands, not yours. The fear of failure will be removed from your performance. Success will no longer be the goal; significance in the process of fishing will hold all the emotions that you have longed for, namely peace, patience, and significance.
If you choose to go down this new road I want you to do something before you leave this place. I've provided a place for you to write down the lies that you have learned along your journey in life, those lies that you have established in your heart even though the weight of them has been crushing your soul.
Next, I want you to write the truths of God's Word that you have heard today. These truths will set you free and will establish a new calling in your life, one that will begin to rewrite the epitaph of your life. And write down today's date as the day you began your new life.
Finally, ask God to forgive you for running in the wrong direction. Ask Him to lead you down this new road through faith in His Son. And tell Him that you are ready to follow Him as you give Him the helm of your boat.
Remember: See it, feel it, trust it. See His face, feel His presence, and trust His love.
In the book, Golf's Sacred Journey, the unnamed pro wrote down these lies - lies that had kept him from a life of significance.
- My golf scores are a reflection of my self-worth.
- Failure in golf is failure in life.
- Success in golf will bring the fulfillment that I long for.
- My calling in life is to play golf.
- The opinions of others are paramount in the choices I make.
- God is a crutch for the weak.
- Tradition is sacred and never to be challenged
Your own list may look similar, or may look entirely different. It doesn't matter. What does matter is this: That you walk away from those things that trap you in a life that may be filled with success but devoid of significance.
We want to help you do that. As a way of symbolizing your own journey from success to significance, we will print the lies you enter here and personally bury them under the earth in Utopia. Utopia is a real place. We will use a real shovel, and help you say goodbye to those lies forever.