Since the Masters Tournament starts today, I thought I would pass along a story that Jim Elliff told in an article called No Lay-Up Shot. It seems that his older brother was invited to play a round of golf at Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters Tournament. He was playing his once-in-a-lifetime round with the required caddy carrying his bags. When they came to the 13th hole, the final stop on the fabled "Amen Corner," his brother faced a situation that the greatest golfers in the world face every year.

The hole (nicknamed "Azalea" for reasons that will be clear if you watch the tournament this weekend) is a classic risk-reward hole that requires golfers to decide whether or not to "go for it." The par 5, 510 yard hole features a dogleg to the left with a sloping fairway that flattens out in front of Rae's Creek that flows in front of the green. Four greenside bunkers greet those golfers who hit the ball too long. 

The big question is deceptively simple. Do I go for the green in two shots, leaving me with an eagle putt if I hit the green or do I lay up and hit an iron, leaving the ball on the fairway side of Rae's Creek? That means my third shot must go over the water and land on the green, leaving me with a short putt for a birdie. 

Tournaments have been won and lost at the 13th hole.

So when Jim Eliff's brother arrived at the 13th hole, he hit his first shot down the fairway. Then he asked the caddy for an iron. The following conversation ensued.

"What do you want with this iron?"

"I want to play it safe by laying up just this side of the creek," my brother replied.

"Man," the caddy exclaimed, "You didn't fly all this way to hit no lay-up shot!" And he yanked out a fairway wood to hand to my brother.

My brother said, "But I might go into the water."

"You might or you might not," said the caddy, "but one thing is for sure —you'll never know till you try."

So his brother took the fairway wood from the caddy, smacked the ball, and watched it fly over the water and land on the green.

One line sticks in the mind. "You didn't fly all this way to hit no lay-up shot." How true that is. If you've come all the way to Augusta, you might as well hit for the green. Even if you end up in the water, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you weren't playing it safe.

I've been thinking about this lately because a very wise friend wrote me out of the blue recently. After saying some kind things, he gave me this challenge:

I continue to pray God's blessing on you both and that he would use your gifts in even greater ways. He has no limits, so your imagination should not either.... All for his honor. I encourage you to dream bigger Pastor Ray, put it out here and see what he will accomplish thru you. Accept no barriers.  

/blockquote>

That sounds like a word from the Lord that I need to hear. We serve a God without limits who can do above and beyond all we could ask or think. God is so far beyond us that we don't even know what we don't know!

So in that spirit I give you the same words I'm giving myself. "You didn't come this far to hit no lay-up shot."

Where is God stretching your faith right now?
In what area are you playing it safe?
How is the Holy Spirit pulling you out of your comfort zone?

Go ahead. Take the "big dog" out of the bag and give it a mighty swing. You might hit the water. Or you might not. But you'll never know until you try. 

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.