In the Zone

I’m not a big sports fan and seldom use sports analogies in my articles. Football bores me and the squeaky shoes in a basketball game get on my nerves. I won’t even say what I think of car racing and wrestling. But I do love a good tennis match. Don’t bother me during one of the grand slam tournaments!

I watched Roger Federer school his opponent on the finer points of tennis during the final of the Australian Open in January. A commentator remarked that Federer was in the zone, and I started thinking.

I and others have opined how Christians need to get out of their comfort zones to move past complacency. It can be a good thing to be made uncomfortable. I’ve been there many times, and it’s helped me grow. I’ve learned I can do things I never would have tried if circumstances hadn’t pushed me out of my safe place and into new territory. I also learned which things I shouldn’t do again, as I either didn’t do a good job or felt like a fish out of water who didn’t accomplish much except gasp and flop around.

Being in the zone in sports means everything is working just right. All the training and preparation come together to bring a win or even make a champion. When a tennis player such as Roger Federer gets in the zone, it’s like watching poetry in motion.

Can a Christian be in the zone the same as an athlete? Why not? Perhaps we could call it being in the zone of the Holy Spirit. When we are serving in our area of giftedness, we show our excitement, we see results and most importantly, we feel in tune with the Holy Spirit. Everything works right and good things happen.

How does one get in the zone? It doesn’t happen by magic. Yes, it comes through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, but it also comes through deliberate effort on our part. Dallas Willardin his book, Renovation of the Heart, suggests the reason many of us do not achieve true inner spiritual transformation is we don’t follow the general pattern of transformation—vision, intention and means.

Vision means we begin to live life in the kingdom of God here and now. This is not something we can do on our own; it comes from God as a gift. He has already given us this vision through his son Jesus and it becomes clearer to us as we trust and rely on him.

Intention means we decide to believe and choose to obey. It’s possible to believe, but if we don’t make a conscious choice to obey every day, chances are we will either on purpose or by neglect choose to disobey.

We find the means for spiritual transformation in the example and teachings of Jesus, in the Scriptures generally and in his people. Willard says while not all of the means are under our control (some are actions of God in and toward us) some are. He recommends off-the-spot training, where we put good principles and actions into practice in the little areas of life, much as an athlete puts in his or her time in the gym during the off season.

If we practice vision, intentionality and means in our daily lives, we will be prepared for the big moments, the championship matches, when everything comes together and we enter the zone. We too can be poetry in motion for Jesus in the zone with the Holy Spirit.

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