A close friend of mine said that you can watch world sport all day. I felt the heartache of the British Lions losing to the Auckland Blues last week as they recorded their first loss on their tour to New Zealand. I also shared in the victory of the winning team. You could see the excitement in their eyes.
Life’s like that. There will always be winners and losers. Sometimes we have to back our team through the lean years. I still think that world sport is the new religion on the planet. It’s a sophisticated, leisure time distraction that sucks you in to follow contests from beginning to end. We are hooked, glued to the TV as our heroes strut onto the field.
People of faith face similar struggles. The love of God and the love of self is always a battle. No heart is truly free to love God when consumed with a desire for pleasure, possessions, power and praise. It’s a question of where our hearts are fixed. An impulse of pure love towards God fueled by a desire to know Him better is an act of sweet surrender. The desire to love God will be strengthened when we make it our constant prayer “that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy Holy name”.
Nobody likes to lose. There are few things in life that are more powerful than being HUMILIATED. In those moments we explore the depths, sit down and examine the facts of life. HUMILIATION will come to us (it’s happening at the Oval and Roland Garros as I type). We must expect it to happen and be ready to face it. When HUMILIATION has been humbly accepted, it has lost its power.
Time after time we can watch Jesus through the pages of the gospels as He humbles himself. We can see and feel the HUMILIATION of the mocking and the scourging. The denial and betrayal shame us. Soon we make our discovery. When HUMILIATION has been humbly accepted it has lost its power to do us harm.
Rugby players accepting defeat (in post match interviews) say “we must go back to the drawing board”. The going is heavy. How do you pick up from where you’ve left off? We become depressed. Our path of life leads us through deserts. Times are tough. In such periods of wilderness we may not understand that God is working in us.
Spare a thought for Theresa May. Many thought that Labour was heading for a terrible defeat – that people had made up their mind about Jeremy Corbyn. Now her critics want to see her flinch in self inflicted pain and see her arrogance turn into ashes. One observer said “Please stay while we savour your HUMILIATION“. We are seeing the same response in South Africa over Helen Zille’s tweet. Tomorrow the Press will have a field day about the performance of the Proteas against India.
The great temptation when HUMILIATION strikes is to give up. Yet the secret is to “always press on”. I find it helpful to look firmly and faithfully at the “great abiding realities” when we are made to look stupid and feel ashamed. Whenever we lose the respect of others, we do well to remind ourselves that He is there, even if we cannot feel the warmth of his love or behold the splendour of his glory.
Jesus made it clear that his way will be straight and narrow. By taking up our cross daily, we recognise that much of our journey will be uphill. Yet every word that reaches us from the scriptures has the power to transform. God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7: 14 still stands: “If my people humble themselves …. turn from their wicked ways … I will forgive and heal”. I can live with that.