The United States Golf Association has crowned a champion in 2005. Watching this year's U. S. Open Championship has once again served as a reminder that the game of golf is very much a game dependent upon the individual competitor. With thousands of patrons lining the fairways and circling every green, each golfer faces the challenge alone. Whether on a world stage or with a couple of friends on a local course, each player that tees it up goes at it alone. Even in team events, the game still boils down to one player playing his game, one shot at a time. Though he may occasionally glance at the leader board or the scorecard to see where he stands, his success or failure depends upon how well he plays his game. If he fails, he may blame his caddie, he may blame his coach, he may blame his clubs, but in reality, it all falls on his own shoulders.

The spiritual walk is very similar. In certain aspects, it is an individual journey. It is the responsibility of the individual believer to make the journey. What the individual makes of the life is up to him or her. Friends may offer assistance along the way. Parents may give guidance. Teachers may offer instruction. The community of believers may refresh us and provide that person with a sense of belonging. Others may offer to help, give him encouragement, and guidance, but the quality of the journey depends upon what that individual chooses to make of it.

The believer also has the Spirit of the Living God living inside to counsel, to lead, and to comfort. The Spirit refreshes the believer when she or he struggles. The Spirit lifts up believers when they fall. The Word gives believers instruction. The example of the Son shows believers the way and confirms that Christian living is possible. Others who have traveled this way before us have modeled what the life looks like in human form.

We have all these resources for strength and guidance, yet the life we live is our responsibility. Though others may advise us, counsel us, and encourage us, we must live the life. When we compare ourselves to others, we accomplish very little. There will always be those who are further along the spiritual journey than we are, as well as those who have not advanced as far as we have. Our journey remains our journey. No one can travel it for us.

He is the champion.
Our salvation is dependent fully upon the grace and mercy of the One who created us and has called us to His service. Our decision on whether or not to accept that wonderful gift, and what we do with that calling, is up to us. It is a personal matter. It is our responsibility to receive the gift and our responsibility to honor Him by using the gift to honor Him.

In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus and Peter are reunited. Peter is given the ministry of feeding sheep. After pondering his situation, Peter looks at John and asks Jesus, "What about him?" Jesus looks at Peter and says, "What is that to you? You follow me."

How's your game? How's your walk with the Lord? Try not to compare your walk to that of your brother or your sister. Try not to base your evaluation on how others are doing or not doing, but base it on how well you are doing what God has asked you to do. If we are going to make it on this journey, we must follow Jesus. Regardless of who else follows or does not follow, we must follow.

In the final round of the 2005 U. S. Open, some charged toward the lead, others fell away, one hung on to win the championship. What others did was not his concern. His concern was to play his game. He did. He won. He is the champion.

Jesus said, "You must follow me."

You must follow Him.

I must follow Him.

When we do, we will one day realize we are His champion!