I looked out the window of the bus on the way from the Vision Parking lot to Bethel English Church for early Sunday Service. The bright winter morning sun was shining onto attractive and inviting green fairways of the golf course right across the street from Church. It had drizzled lightly on Friday night and made the course look perhaps more invitingly green than I recalled when I played this course many years ago. Then I thought back to the testimony that Pastor James Myong shared on Friday night. It was one of those testimonies that, being an avid sports fan, I loved to hear but with a twist.
Pastor James Myong, when he was just 10 years old, was introduced to the sport of golf when he tagged along with his Dad to the golf practice range – more because he wanted to spend time and hang out with his Dad than for the love of the game. A modest start. But only a couple of years later, he won his first tournament. Only it was not just any tournament, but a tournament which had an open age classification ranging from 12 to 18. And at the age of 12, he won this tournament over some competitors much older, as old as 18 years. He went on to win many more tournaments afterwards. Another golf prodigy from SoCal to match Tiger? A genuine Korean-American Tiger? All the coaches and colleges, no doubt, were salivating. PGA was waiting. He was soon ranked as high as top 20. The future was bright - needed to wear some shades.
Until it wasn’t. At least not according to the worldly standards of how things are supposed to turn out. While playing in a tournament in Florida, young James had experienced such pain in his left leg that he had to withdraw from the tournament and come back home to California to get a diagnosis – a tumor in his knee. After going through chemo, he and his family had to make the painful decision of amputating his leg below the knee. It was not supposed to play out like this. A bright future as a golf prodigy was no more.
As I was listening to his testimony, I kept thinking - Why God? Why couldn’t he have been successful in golf reaching his full potential and still be able to minister to so many more people? So much talent wasted, I thought. As I was driving home, my wife was googling LA Times January 1, 2000 article on James Myung. She read an excerpt where young James played in a match play against Matt Kuchar and how the outcome of that tight match could have potentially changed the trajectories of the two golfers. Matt Kuchar, the PGA pro and champion, and competitor in many Ryder Cups, etc. Why God? I just kept thinking – couldn’t James have had more impact if he had been successful in golf and then gone into ministry?
But God works in mysterious ways. Pastor James gave the sermon on Friday from Psalm 23. Psalm 23 - which I had memorized and recited to myself countless times. But he brought a fresh and new perspective to my beloved Psalm 23. It was that God “guides me down the path of righteousness for His namesake.” Not for my sake. Not for the sake of the worldly success or fame. Not for what I would consider to be way things are supposed to turn out. But for His namesake and for His perfect will.
As I reflect on the weekend of Gospel Revolution with Pastor James preaching on the theme of “Beauty from Ashes,” I realize how short my perspective and thinking was. Who is to say that God would have been more pleased if James would have been more successful as a golfer? God does not need James’ or anyone else’s worldly fame or successes. God is more pleased with one small act of faithfulness than with countless or vast sacrifices not given in genuine faith. I do not know for certain, but I suspect that our God was far more pleased that James, after the amputation of his leg, was able to minister and encourage another young amputee who had not spoken a word for at least a couple of days – not to his family or to the doctors or to anyone. But James used the fact that he himself was an amputee to draw out the timid young amputee into a conversation and encourage the young boy. Who is to say that God is not more pleased with saving of one lost lamb over the 99 that are in the clear?
God works in mysterious ways. He meets us where we are. He utilizes us in our weakness and imperfections. He performs mighty works through people not because they are capable, but because they are obedient and faithful. So it was that God prefers to work with a young amputated, once-promising golfer because James was obedient and faithful. His testimony is powerful and still going. The future is, indeed, bright.
What did I take away from the Gospel Revolution weekend? Having had an overseas year-end vacation with the family, I felt the Gospel Revolution gave me an opportunity for a peaceful and reflective start to the year. The reflection that stuck with me most is that I want to be more obedient and faithful to God and worry less about doing things. Praise God!