You may not have noticed it, but there's been quite a bit of sport going on during the last week or so with International cricket, F1 racing, Tour de France cycling and Wimbledon... and in each of them there have been stories of struggle, despair and triumph. In each we've seen the shoulders slumped, the quiet determination and the moments of elation. We've all got our heroes and villains and I won't try to impose my own opinions on you, but I would hazard a guess that all of us as spectators and fans at whatever level have had our highs and lows as we follow their fortunes and results.
As Christians, and as a church, we're by no means immune to those same feelings. We're not insulated from events surrounding us and if anything our faith means that we may feel them more keenly than others (to discuss another day!). But how do we overcome the challenges of our situation, how do we sidestep the hazards of success and heal the hurts that we feel?
In sport, you'll often hear commentators talking about players having to 'dig deep' or 'find another gear' when things are tough... now in terms of cycling that may be quite literal, but its more usually a metaphor, so what does it mean for us?
Digging deep- when things are hard, or they aren't working out, the temptation to give up is all too real, but this is the time when we need to look at what's in our foundations. As a Church it's the stuff around values, vision and ethos- what we we about, why are we doing this, and so on. As Christians it's about the basic foundations of our faith...For some of us that might be the Gospel- Christ lived to show what relationship with God could look like; he died to make that possible for me and he sent the Holy Spirit to make it achievable in my life (or however you phrase it in your heart); for others it might be some truths from Scripture- 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don't rely on what you know- learn to rely on the Lord' from Proverbs 3 has been of great help in my life. My point is that we need to get those foundations in place before we find ourselves in the tough times... we need to practice our faith somewhere safe so that we can rely on it in life...
It might not work, and there's absolutely no guarantee that it'll be easy... but the route to success, to the glory that God calls us to and to our becoming the disciples and the church that he sees in us lies the other side of those difficulties. In Jesus ministry two of the toughest times that he faced were in the wilderness and the garden of Gethsemane- places of trial and turmoil... but from them came great victory not just for Jesus but for all of us.