You don’t hear much about it anymore but during the 1960’s and early 70’s there was nothing cooler than surfing for someone my age. Surfers dared to be different. Most teenagers wore blue jeans with buttoned shirts, but surfers wore corduroys with holes in the knees, T-shirts with surfer logo’s and tennis shoes with no socks. We drove mom’s car, but surfers drove converted vans with boards on top. Thanks to the influence of Beach Boy’s music and movies, surfers were cool dudes and I wanted to be one.

Looking back on my foolish quest, I discovered lessons from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that can help us all be more successful in life and improve our relationship with God.

Lesson 1: Why Use A Battleship… when A Surfboard will do? To surf, you need a board. Virginia Beach has small waves so surfboards are small and lightweight. What did I use? My father bought a board… ‘Cheap’… from a sailor, out of Hawaii that was eight feet long, made of oak, weighing seven tons and appropriately nicknamed ‘the battleship.’ People on the beach laughed when they saw me coming. Surfers in the water moved away from me.

Lesson Learned: Good preparation beats frettin’ any day. Nike says, “Just do it!” God says,  “Pray first and I will guide your doing!” Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6)

Living your faith in Christ is best when you are prepared. The best preparation an ever-growing relationship with God. Prayer, Bible study, participating in groups that encourage you, worship that stimulates you are all part of your foundation.

Lesson 2: Are you doing too much paddlin’… and too little surfin’? Do you know how much energy it takes just to paddle to the surfing area? (Especially with a battleship.) I would huff and puff, thrashing my arms, only to have the next wave pick up the surfboard and fling us back to shore. When I finally made it to the surfing area, I was pooped.

Lesson: Is your ‘work at it’ too large and your ‘faith in it’ too small? Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” God says, If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds…. (Verse 7)

It’s also easy to get caught up in too many church activities and too few exposures to what you are supposed to actually do as a Christian. We sometimes spend so much time in church, we forget that church is actually meant to prepare us for how we involve ourselves in everyday life.

Lesson 3: A sleeping surfer… could get stung. After finally reaching the surfing area, I could rest. One time, I woke up, rubbed my eyes, looked around and saw the biggest jellyfish in the world. It must have been a deadly Portuguese ‘Man of War.’ (Of course, they aren’t normally in Virginia Beach but it’s a good story.) So much for teenage coolness as I screamed and fell off the board setting a new speed record swimming to shore. The surfboard could take care of itself.

Lesson: Do you know when to relax and when to be alert? In this scary world, working to have a better relationship with God can set our priorities straight. Then we are more able to rest peacefully and also be more alert when necessary. And now, dear friends, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. (Verse 8)

But this is about more than surfin’ and nostalgia. Good preparation is also important for life. Strengthening our relationship with God through prayer, Bible study, church involvement and missions can be key ingredients to an improved outlook on this world and the next.  

Lesson 4: Waxing your board… beats breaking your gourd. After finally getting into position, I was ready for my first ride. I could picture myself hangin’ five… maybe ten. For you nonsurfer dudes, that’s the ability to stand on the front of the board and curl either five or ten toes over the edge. Awesome stunt! In my lifetime, I managed to hang, maybe one, maybe none. Sheesh!

The right wave came my way. The ‘Battleship’ was in position, and I started paddling like mad and caught it. I really did! “Man, this is easy,” I thought and stood up. Hmmm. No one ever told me a surfboard needed to be waxed. It was like trying to stand on a ‘slip n slide.’  Well, I slipped and slid off the board like it was a gigantic banana peel. So much for hangin’ ten.

Lesson: A willingness to prepare can save a lot of despair. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

Lesson 5: How do you… steer this thing? After applying at least three inches of wax, I went out again, caught a wave, stood up and stayed up. But there was just one problem. How do you steer this thing? Steering was critical because the surfing area was limited and extremely crowded. The ‘Battleship’ and me were bearing down on some poor schmuck and all I could do was shout, “LOOK OUT!” It is simply amazing what a moving surfboard can do. He stepped back just as my board landed and was flipped high enough in the air to qualify for a pole vault competition. They asked me to leave the beach that day.

Lesson: A continual willingness to get up after failing is often the crucial ingredient for success. Never, never, never give up! Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing… V9

A huge part of our Christian life is in handling disappointments, obstacles, challenges, frustrations and setbacks. Our faith witness to others seldom comes from our success stories, our faith witness is often noticed by others when we handle crisis.

Lesson 6: Shootin’ the tube… makes a happy surfer dude! Finally, I began to get the hang of surfing. There are few thrills that compare with catching a wave and riding it all the way to the shore. Surfing is ultimately a combination of preparation, patience, a never-give up attitude and a deep love and respect for the power of the ocean wave.

Could this also be the secret of living a godly life? A combination of preparation, patience, a never-give up attitude and a deep love and respect for the power of God? Once you get the hang of it; there is no thrill to compare with totally surrendering your life to God. Nothing!  

Lesson: The right journey is always worth the sacrifice. …and the God of peace will be with you. V9