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FIRST-PERSON: Lessons from Tiger

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Just a few short weeks ago the title, “lessons from Tiger” would have been understood as the chance of a lifetime to learn the golf swing from one of the greatest golfers to play the game. Any avid golfer would have jumped at the chance to learn from the best.

It’s hard to believe how quickly things change.

No doubt you’re growing as weary as I am of the ongoing “Tiger saga.” From the bizarre wreck in his driveway to the unraveling of his well-crafted persona, we thought, “Surely, things can’t get any worse.” But they did.

The Tiger story moved from sports news, to network news, to entertainment news, and finally to the tabloids. And it has spawned numerous internet and late-night routines at his expense. But, don’t forward any of the jokes to me. Knowing that “love refuses to rejoice in unrighteousness,” I can’t laugh at the tragedies that have been caused by his web of sin.

Instead, I’ve pledged to take a different approach, and I invite you to join me even as the drama continues to unfold.


I don’t know anything personally about their spiritual condition, but I’m praying that this event will provide the opportunity for this young couple to experience God’s amazing grace. I’m praying that God will place someone in their path who can share with them the only One with the power to forgive sin and grant a brand new start. I’m committed to pray that:

— their marriage will survive. God hates divorce.

— the children will be protected from the media circus that surrounds this couple.

— Tiger will become a better man as he goes through this process.

Over the years, I’ve watched as Tiger has transformed his swing and emerged a better golfer. In this instance, he won’t be able to bring the needed transformation simply by the exertion of will power. However, God is able to transform man completely and to bring good out of terrible tragedy.


Please know that I don’t offer any of these thoughts out of harshness in my heart, but in a spirit of “truth in love.” Even so, as I examined myself, I felt the sting of these spiritual truths.

(1) You reap what you sow.

Even those who don’t know much about the Bible often speak of the law of sowing and reaping. Still, knowing this principle is true, we often live with arrogant disregard of it.

What made this story so shocking is that Tiger’s public persona and private life were so completely out of synch. Outside of a quick temper that sometimes led to a tossed club and a foul word on the golf course, there was little indication Tiger was leading a double life. It just goes to show that whether a politician, physician, pugilist or preacher, we cannot live as if we will be the exception to the law of sowing and reaping.

Even if we manage it for a lifetime, one day all will be exposed. We must live with integrity.

(2) Sin is destructive.

We’re prone to forget that there is a real and evil Adversary who prowls about like a roaring lion. He’s the father of lies and seeks only to kill, steal, and destroy.

Tiger was up against 3 opponenets that overwhelmed him — the Adversary, the power of sin and the lure of the flesh. Sin often disguises itself as “the good life.” It advertizes that it brings ultimate pleasure and that we deserve to live life to its fullest measure. We can see the results pretty clearly in Tiger’s life as we know “the rest of the story,” but we still find ourselves tempted to flirt with sin and treat it casually, thinking we can handle it. But there can be no compromise with the Adversary and with sin — it destroys whatever it touches.

A famous preacher once put it something like this: “Sin never gives us what it promises to bestow. It takes us further than we intended to go, keeps us longer than we intended to stay and costs us more than we intended to pay.”

(3) We can’t beat sin in our own strength.

If you can’t tell it, I’m a fan of Tiger’s golf ability.

He has ability which has amazed anyone who has any knowledge of the golf game. And what truly is amazing is his iron will. Even commentators often refer to Tiger’s ability to will his game to another level when the occasion calls for it.

But human will is not enough — sin is an opponent that defies the exercise of sheer will.

I suspect there’s been more than one occasion where Tiger must have desired to break out of his slavery to sin and the flesh, but found himself drawn back as if by a magnet. In Romans 7:14-8:1, Paul speaks of his inner desire to do good, but notes that the law of the flesh made him a prisoner of the law of sin. He wrote, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” And he answers his own question in the next verse — “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Tiger, like the rest of us, needs the inner resources made available through Christ in order to defeat the sin adversaries he faces. It is sobering, but those of us who know Christ, know we must live DAILY in the power of God’s Spirit. We must learn that we have never arrived and recognize our need to be totally dependent on Him for strength — through the Word, through prayer and through fellowship with other Believers who sharpen us as iron upon iron.


I still am pulling for Tiger. But now it’s not for him to prevail on the links, but that he won’t miss this learning opportunity.

I pray that he will find the only source of strength that will enable him to win against the real Adversary. I pray that God will restore his family and strengthen them — what a platform for the display of God’s power.

And I pray that we will learn these lessons from Tiger.

But for the grace of God!
Kenneth S. Hemphill is the SBC’s national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth and the former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Read “Seek First” daily devotionals by Hemphill and others at www.auxanopress.com.

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  • Kenneth S. Hemphill