I have been served up in the past month a host of remarkable sporting events and incredible achievements, beyond my wildest dreams and hopes. Phil Mickelson who is 51 years old became the oldest Major champion in golf. Then you have the youngest US Open women's golf champion Yuka Saso, a dual citizen of Philippines and Japan. Jon Rahm winning the men's US Open golf was no less remarkable after recovering from Covid-19 just the week before having to forfeit a third round lead of 6 strokes in his previous tournament. And NZ beating India in cricket is David slaying Goliath.A country of 5 million people with perhaps less than 100,000 people playing active cricket against a nation of 1.3 billion people with probably at least 100 million people directly involved in the sport in a cricket-crazed nation with 1 billion strong fan base. When the oldie Ross Taylor (he is still around with his cut shots and leg-side flicks worthy of a champion) hits the winning runs, the victory was made sweeter and complete. Kane Williamson, the NZ captain almost got out due to a dubious decision by the umpire and the VAR came to rescue. If Kane had fallen, what could have happened in the last session? Even the rain and the addition of the 6th day add to the drama and it came to the last hour and victory was snatched in the jaws of hope and belief. Why is sports such a crowd-puller and a heart stopper? Even Paul of the New Testament uses sporting metaphors regularly. Paul does not want to box in the air - a metaphor for fruitless service or an aimless life. It is the discipline of an athlete that Paul refers to when he speaks of a Christian's walk with God, almost as if a Christian only succeeds in his relationship with God if he is just as disciplined as an athlete training for victory or a sportsman excelling in his sport and reaching the pinnacle of success. Novak Djokovic, two sets down and winning the last three sets to win Roland Garros sets the standard of sporting resilience and self-belief which makes Novak, the ideal sportsperson or role model of a champion and dare I say the ideal of any Christian who will not take defeat or wallow in spiritual lethargy but drives relentless towards victory and reaches the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus for the kingdom of God suffers violence, and only the strong forces his way through.
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