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Jason Day: a champion at last

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Sam Ukwuachu takes the stand during his trial at Waco’s 54th State District Court, in Waco, Texas. The one-time All-American who transferred to play football at Baylor University has been convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow student athlete in 2013. (AP Images/Waco Tribune-Herald/Jerry Larson)

The PGA Championship is the last of the 4 annual major tournaments in professional golf. This year’s event, held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, served as a fitting culmination for a season that has been defined by the sport’s next wave of stars beginning to make their mark. By the end of play on Sunday, two records had been set and the sport had a new top ranked player. But the best story was undoubtedly that of Jason Day, a man defined more for his failures in golf than his successes, finally achieving his first career Majors victory.

Going into the tournament’s last day, Jason Day had a two stroke lead over heavy favorite Jordan Spieth. However, that was not Day’s first time this year having at least a share of the lead. He’d been tied for the top score going into the final round of both the U.S. and British Opens, only to lose them in heartbreaking fashion. He was determined not to see history repeat itself, keeping up his relentless pace from previous rounds and never giving Spieth a chance to make a run at the top.

However, Day’s win at the Championship was more than the culmination of professional aspirations. As ESPN’s Ian O’Connor describes, his background isn’t what you might normally associate with the game of golf. As his caddie and long-time coach, Colin Swatton, put it, Day came from “the wrong side of the tracks” in Queensland, Australia. His father died of stomach cancer when Day was 12 and his mother borrowed money from his aunt and uncle, in addition to taking out a second mortgage on her house, in order for him to attend a golf academy 7 hours away. Her sacrifices extended all the way to cutting the grass with a knife because they couldn’t afford a lawn mower and heating up the water for a bath in tea kettles because they didn’t have a hot water tank.

As a kid, Day resorted to drinking and fighting as a way to vent his frustration but, fortunately, golf eventually became that outlet. At the academy, Swatton said that Day wasn’t the most talented student there but he “just outworked everybody” and “put in more hours than anybody else.” All of that hard work finally came to fruition on Sunday.

As O’Connor describes, when Day finally broke down while standing over his final putt on the 18th green and again while embracing his family after the ball found its way home, “Those weren’t the tears of major championship liberation. They belonged to a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who became a man a long way from home.”

Whether it’s because of the trials we have overcome or those we have yet to truly conquer, for better or worse the difficulties we face often shape us into the people we are today. For Jason Day, his past fueled his drive to become a great golfer and to be able to provide his family with all the things he never had growing up. At times, that pressure might have been a negative influence, causing him to fall short of his potential. However, on Sunday it motivated him to never take the next shot for granted and he finished a record 20 under par, breaking Tiger Woods’ previous best of 19 under at the 2000 British Open.

Essentially, he accomplished great things because his past struggles took on a redemptive role rather than a punitive one. God wants to do the same for us. His sacrifice on the cross was meant not only to redeem us eternally but presently as well. However, that present purpose can only be accomplished if we allow him to bring it about in our lives. If we choose to hold onto the past rather than embrace his future as a new creation, reconciled to him by Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), then we lose out on that present redemption. And when that happens, we will not know the kind of consistent joy and peace that are inherent to the kind of full life he longs to give (John 10:10).

If you’ll let him, God can use your past to accomplish amazing things for your present. But he won’t do it against your will. So my question for your today is, is there something keeping you from embracing that redemption? Is there an aspect of your past that you haven’t yet turned over to God?

Surrendering the trials of this life to him can be difficult because so often they become the defining forces in our lives. But God wants to give you a new definition as his most beloved child. Will you let him?

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