Thought for the Month (August 2016)

This summer has been dominated by sport. From Tuesday 21st June to Sunday 10th July, football fans enjoyed the Euro 2016 tournament when three of the four home nations (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) all sought to win the cup, whilst tennis enthusiasts were no doubt simultaneously devoting all their attention to the Lawn Tennis Association championships at Wimbledon where Scotsman Andy Murray's victory in the Men's Singles more than compensated for Scotland's absence from the Euro 2016 tournament. From Friday 15th to Wednesday 20th July, Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club hosted the annual Kent Cricket Week at the Nevill Ground, whilst further afield this month sees the Olympics in Rio from Friday 5th to Sunday 21st August, when many anxious spectators will be hoping that diver Tom Daley and other British competitors will secure Gold medals when they represent Team GB in various events.

Despite the wide differences in the various sports, there are four things each sportsman/sportswoman has in common: focus, discipline, communication and commitment. Such things guarantee success in our Christian walk, too. Let us focus for a moment or two on each of these in turn: -

1. Focus. What is it you want to gain, above all things? Paul said: "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) That sort of commitment is the Christianity that will survive any persecution and hardship.

2. Discipline. Just as athletes immerse themselves in everything to do with their sport, surround yourself with Christian riches that will feed your mind and spirit. Deliberately choose good Christian music, read the lives of wellknown Christians, and seek out mature Christians for friendship and even mentoring. Christianity is like sport; it flourishes best when it is enjoyed with others!

3. Communication. What would happen to an athlete if he/she stopped speaking to their coach, for weeks on end? So this aspect begins with Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God." Fundamental to your faith is your prayer life alone with God. Jesus said "No branch can bear fruit of itself, it must remain in the vine." (John 15.4). The Psalms covers every aspect of our walk with God day by day – so if you don't know how to begin to pray, simply begin by praying the Psalms. And read your Bible every day. God speaks to us through the Bible and prayer – keep the lines of communication open!

4. Commitment. This is nothing more than the resolve to keep going, no matter what the obstacles. Paul had a driving ambition: "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3:10) And the final result of all our efforts? "Our citizenship is in heaven…." (Philippians 3:20).

This month, as the eyes of the world focus on the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, we would do well to remember that a number of New Testament letters make reference to Olympic sport including Hebrews: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The Christian life is compared to a race, but although we face struggles and obstacles, there is a great crowd of witnesses cheering us on. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us and a Saviour who has run the race before us. If we keep our eyes fixed on him, He will ensure we finish the race.

During the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the British athlete Derek Redmond was running in the semi-finals of the 400 metres. About 250 metres from the finish his hamstring tore. He fell to the ground in pain and stretcher bearers came over to him. However, Redmond wanted to finish the race and so he started hopping toward the finishing line.

Suddenly Jim Redmond, Derek's father, ran out of the stands towards him. "You don't have to do this," he told his son. "Yes, I do," said Derek, to which his father said "We're going to finish this together." They completed the lap with Derek leaning on his father's shoulder. As they crossed the finish line, the spectators rose to give Derek a standing ovation. Although he didn't win an Olympic medal, Derek Redmond finished the race with his father at his side. Let's not forget the encouragement and support we have from Our Heavenly Father to finish the race!

May God bless and sustain you in your earthly race/walk with Him this month and always.

Christopher Luke (Editor)

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church