Practice by Randy Rowley, 3/15/09 ©


I broke my first clay target on a skeet field at age 15.  I enjoyed breaking targets, but skeet became, and still is, too predictable for me.  So, I only shot clays just before dove season.  My clay-target shooting passion didn’t develop until I was introduced to the games of sporting clays and 5-stand.

People often describe sporting clays as ‘golf with a shotgun,’ if you have never shot it.  Sporting clays courses typically have five to 12 stations (like ‘holes’ on a golf course), with two traps per station.  Station 1 might have a high outgoing bird and a left-to-right crosser that’s dropping fast.  Station 2 might have a right-to-left floating crosser followed by a bird going 45-degrees up.  Station 3 might have a low incomer followed by a rolling clay rabbit.

5-stand is similar to sporting clays, but instead of stations, it has five stands in a row and usually six or seven traps.  The shooters rotate between the stands, and each stand calls for different traps to be thrown.  It’s essentially a less expensive (for the clay target range) version of sporting clays, as the range has to buy fewer traps, batteries, etc., and it requires a lot less space.

Also unique to sporting clays and 5-stand, to a lesser degree, is the target setters can choose to use terrain to make the targets more challenging.  For example, they might set a trap behind a large cedar tree in such a way that the shooter has only a couple of seconds from the time that he sees the bird to it escaping behind another cedar.

Sporting clays and 5-stand targets are designed to mimic crossing doves, flushing quail, landing ducks, and running rabbits more than any other clay sports.  They prepare hunters for what we will face in real hunting situations.

But what about real-life situations?  Do we Christians prepare ourselves for the trials and temptations that we might face?  Many of us don’t have a clue regarding what we’ll do when we’re tested.  We’re clueless because we don’t prepare ourselves by having a plan or a practice.

To be sure, there are those of us who are more gifted than others.  We’ve all heard stories of people who are natural shots, stalkers, trackers, or who can instinctively tell the difference between a clump of grass and a soft-biting bass.  But those shooters, hunters, and fishermen who are at the top of their games get there universally by the old saying – “practice, practice, practice.”

When we shoot sporting clays or 5-stand, many of us are ready to stop for the day after 50 – 100 targets.  The pro is just getting warmed up.  Many of us want to get off the lake after four hours without a bite.  The pro puts Plan E into motion as he formulates Plans F, G, and H.  After a morning deer hunt, many of us are ready for breakfast and a nap.  The pro hunts all day.

Pros are not just devoted to what they do.  They’re obsessed with it.  They make whatever sacrifices are necessary to obtain their goals.  They practice their skills to the point that they can do them blindfolded.  They pay the price to get to where they are.  Although I am far from a pro in my sporting endeavors, practice does indeed make me better.

For the game that we call life, we also should know how to put God’s words into practice.  Fortunately, he has given us a book of instructions and principles, called the Bible, on what we are and aren’t to practice.  The practices in the Bible are much better than any practice that man is capable of creating.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, “‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’”  Philippians 4:9a says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.”

Every day there is a myriad of possible scenarios that will give us opportunities to practice Biblical principles.  Frankly, we don’t have the time or energy to ponder how to respond to each scenario.  But we can decide that we’ll practice Biblical principles.  We’ll always respond correctly by doing so.  To do that, we have to know what the Bible says.  Below are some examples.

So what Biblical principle should we practice if we’re bored at work and are tempted to surf the web all day?  Ephesians 6:5-8 (NLT) says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you.  As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.”  Instead of wasting time, we must practice working as if we’re working for God.

So what Biblical principle should we practice when someone flirts with us?  Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, “‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’”  1 Corinthians 6:18a says, “Flee from sexual immorality.”  Instead of responding to the flirtatious talk, we must practice fleeing from sexual immorality.

So what Biblical principle should we practice when someone tailgates us for miles and then pulls into the parking place next to us at work?  Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “‘For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’”  Colossians 3:8 says, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”  Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Instead of anger, we must practice forgiving others, encouraging them, and remaining calm.

So what Biblical principle should we practice when we’re tempted to shoot dove or keep bass over the limit.  God said in Leviticus 19:11, “‘You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.’”  Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”  Instead of stealing game, we must practice obeying game laws.

When we break laws that authorities have established, we’re not rebelling against them – we’re rebelling against God.  The exception of submitting to the governing authorities is when they tell us to do or not do something, and God told us the opposite, such as when Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t obey their governments’ orders to worship or pray to their ruler or their rulers’ gods.  Or when the authorities told Peter and the apostles that they must stop preaching in “that name,” Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” (See Acts 5:17-42.)

Sometimes while bird hunting, I’ll make a difficult shot in front of an audience.  During such occasions, someone might ask me, “How did you make that shot?”  My answer might be, “That bird was just like the passing clays that I shot on the hunter’s sporting clays course on station #4 two weeks ago.  Because I had practiced with mimics, I was able to deliver when presented with the real thing.  Likewise, if we determine our practice regarding temptations, it will become second nature for us to handle them successfully.


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