Tag Archives: perseverance

Going for the gold

The Vancouver Winter Olympics are underway! After months of anticipation, the games are finally a reality. Go, Canada, go!

Like most Canadians, I have been enjoying the games. The opening ceremonies were spectacular and did a good job at honouring Native culture. The fence around the cauldron is unfortunate, and the weather has been wacky, but the games continue, and overall most Canadians seem genuinely enthusiastic. Despite some negative press and complaints about the inevitable glitches, there is lots to cheer about. The accomplishments of the athletes are truly impressive, and their level of dedication to the training and preparation process is a good reminder of the value of discipline and sacrifice. Some of the contestants have had to overcome great obstacles to get to where they are. When I hear the stories of some of the individual athletes, I am struck by their willingness to sacrifice and endure pain and hardship for the sake of an opportunity to compete.

Many of the sports also highlight the importance of teamwork, and there can be high drama when a less-favoured but cohesive team scores an upset as a reward for their passion, perseverance and team effort. Thursday night’s hockey game, in which the Swiss team came within a hair of defeating Team Canada, was a prime example of this. The Swiss team had far less “star power” than Team Canada, and was not expected to win. They also had a hot goalie, a core of players that had been practising together for months, and that intangible element of desire and passion – and they almost pulled it off.

So was Switzerland’s almost-win a victory or a defeat? It depends on your perspective. I’m guessing that the Swiss are proud of their team today – as they should be. Even though I’m cheering for Team Canada, secretly I’m happy that the Swiss came so close Thursday night. Their near-upset was a good reminder for Team Canada that it takes more than talent to win a tournament, and that over-confidence (aka pride) can be costly.

The Swiss hockey team’s effort Thursday night was also a great demonstration of those intangibles – team play, courage, perseverance, giving your all for a great cause – that make the Olympics so exciting. The Hudson’s Bay Company has hit upon a very compelling advertising theme for the Olympics with their slogan We were made for this.  Just as significant is the Believe theme chosen by CTV and Rogers for the games. These advertisers have put their finger on the desire of the human heart to believe in something beyond ourselves and to give our best for a high calling. Events like the Olympics remind us that there is more to life than the everyday, humdrum routine of work, eat, sleep. There is glory to be won, there are prizes to contend for, there are great causes to embrace.

For most of us, though, Olympic glory can never be more than second-hand. When it comes to the Olympics – or, for that matter, the SuperBowl or the Stanley Cup, or American Idol, the Academy Awards, and so forth – the most I can expect to do is take pride in someone else’s accomplishments, not my own. I have no illusions about ever being a superstar in any form of athletics or entertainment.

This thought doesn’t worry me, because in the end, contests like the Olympics aren’t really that important.  The reason they are valuable is because they remind us of the contest that really counts. It’s the great cosmic battle between darkness and light, and the future of the human race is at stake. The good news is that the final outcome has already been determined. Heaven’s champion has already run his race and has won the gold medal for us. But unlike the Olympics, we get to do more than just watch – we get to run too. Amazingly enough, unqualified though we may be, we all have an invitation from Jesus, the Victor, to be on his team. If we run the race, we are guaranteed a share in His victory.  Everyone who joins His team gets the gold. In fact, we must run if we want to obtain the prize that is waiting for us. If we don’t run, we forfeit – to our eternal loss. But even though we’re guaranteed a share in His victory if we run the race, it’s no cakewalk. This race involves faith, training, courage, sacrifice, and life-long perseverance.

In the end, Olympic glory will fade. There is only one prize that will endure forever – the prize of God’s smile, His approval. Compared to this prize, nothing else ultimately matters. It’s the reward for turning away from the self-preoccupation that is so characteristic of our age, and choosing to live my life for the pleasure of the One who sacrificed His life for me.

I’ve made my choice – I’m going for the gold. How about you?

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Lessons from Physiotherapy

Almost two weeks ago I began a process of physiotherapy to reestablish function in my left shoulder.  This became necessary as a result of  a cycling accident a few weeks ago which resulted in a dislocated shoulder, a badly sprained hand and wrist, and some nasty lacerations and bruises.   The lacerations and bruises are now mostly healed and the wrist and hand are coming along (although it is slower than I would like : I still can’t play my guitar, for example).   The shoulder has been the slowest to respond.   Physiotherapy has been making a difference, and I see progress, but it is taking longer than I would like.

My goal is simply to get the arm and shoulder back to a state in which they can do all the things they used to do.   Sounds simple enough, but having been immobilized for over a week following the initial injury, the joint has stiffened and now resists doing the things it was designed to do.   Some of the stretching and pulling movements that are part of the therapy feel uncomfortable, and it’s easier not to do them.  If I didn’t have a memory of what my shoulder could do before the accident, and a strong desire to regain these abilities, I would probably conclude that I was never supposed to be able to do these things, and give up trying.

Last week while praying and worshipping with some friends it suddenly dawned on me that this process of rehabilitating my shoulder offers some valuable insights into the sometimes painful process of spiritual growth and character development.   When we surrender control of our lives to Jesus Christ, we don’t always realize that this is just the beginning of a lifelong process, the purpose of which is to form us in His image – to prepare us to be a suitable bride for Him, one who loves what He loves and does what He does.

Sometimes this process involves stretching us into a new shape – a shape we were intended for, but which we have never experienced because we have never fully known life as it was meant to be lived.  True, we have been granted glimpses, occasional foretastes, of this new reality, but we have no consistent memory of being as free and full of life as Jesus Christ, even though it is how we were designed to be.  So when he tells us “you can handle this challenge”, in our flesh (fallen nature) we say “no I can’t, that hurts, it can’t be God’s will”.  Take the disciples in the boat during the storm.  To them, it was terrifying; to Jesus it was no big deal, it was all part of the process of learning to trust and persevere.    So we need to get our vision of what we are capable of from what God’s word says about us, not from what we have experienced so far.   I have a memory of having a fully functioning shoulder in the context of life on earth, but I don’t have any memory of what it means to be alive according to the full measure of Jesus Christ.  That’s what I’m destined for, but I’ll need to keep my eyes on the prize, and be willing to expend some effort and withstand some stretching and pulling to get there.  Even though my restoration is by the grace of God, I only get there if I believe that it’s possible, and act on that belief.

Another lesson I am learning from physiotherapy,  along with perseverance through pain and discomfort, is the lesson of humility.   I am getting help from all kinds of people, and I am having to depend on others for things that I used to be able to do for myself.  I can resent this or I can use it as an opportunity to cultivate gratitude … hmmm, which would be the better choice ?  You decide 🙂

Abba Father, thank you for stretching me and calling me to do things that I don’t think I can do.  Thank you for the lessons of perseverance and humility and gratitude.  And thank you also for the complete healing and restoration which I believe Jesus made available to me by the blood of the cross and which I confidently expect to receive in full in your perfect timing.

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When God puts your life on hold

My son Joe broke his ankle last weekend.  We were visiting friends from our former house church in Russell, and had planned a game of ball hockey on the outdoor court in our old neighbourhood.  We had done this dozens of times before, with lots of spills, but never any injuries.  But this time, Joe slipped on a patch of ice, his feet went out from under him, he landed heavily on his ankle and immediately screamed in pain.  Joe doesn’t admit to pain easily so I knew something was wrong.  The rest of the weekend was a blur, with much time spent in hospital waiting rooms.   X Rays revealed that his ankle was broken in three places, and surgery was required.  The good news is that the breaks were clean and because he is young and got looked after on time, there is an excellent chance of full recovery.  The bad news is that he is suddenly disabled and can do very little for himself in the meantime.   The new job that he was to begin later this week will have to wait; most of his activities and plans are on hold; and his finances are affected, because his income is interrupted while most of his expenses continue.

And Joe’s not the only one whose life has been affected by his accident!  I had just begun 3 weeks off work when Joe had his accident.  I had plans for my holiday time.  And guess what?  Most of those plans have also been on hold for the past five days.   My wife Marion and I have been busy caring for Joe, readjusting our household to handle the needs of a convalescent, providing for unexpected expenses, and managing all kinds of details that he can’t manage for himself.   Then there’s the OC Transpo bus strike – like many people, we are now driving our daughter to school, which takes several hours out of each day.

Not that I’m complaining – as I reflect on our situation I realize that we are blessed.  All our needs are met.  But our priorities have suddenly been adjusted for us, and we had no control over the process.  All our plans were on hold for several days, until we got more of a handle on these unexpected new challenges; some of our longer-term plans have been delayed considerably; and all of Joe’s plans are on hold for several weeks.

So what do you do when God puts your life on hold?

When the Angel Gabriel came to visit Mary, the mother of Jesus, and announced to her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, her life was put on hold in a big way.   Nothing would ever be the same again.  From this point onward, all of her plans would revolve around this new agenda that God had assigned to her.   And God didn’t really give her a choice – He didn’t ask her opinion about this new arrangement.

If Mary had been like many of today’s Christians in the freedom-loving Western world, she probably would have complained.   “A baby?  I don’t want to have a baby yet.  I’m not ready to settle down – I have plans”.   We like to think that we should have a choice about everything.   But Mary was wiser than we usually are.  Woman of faith that she was, she recognized that she did have a choice.  She had the choice to fight God or to surrender to His purposes.   In a split-second she had made up her mind – she knew what to do.

” I am the Lord’s servant”, she replied.  ” May it be to me as you have said. “

Her response changed everything.  Because she was willing, salvation became possible for us.  Because she was willing, the Messiah could enter history and transform it from a story of despair to a story of hope for all who would put their trust in Him.

Joe knows that God has put him on hold for a reason.  He’s been set aside for a season so that he can slow down and take stock of where he has been and where he is headed.  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe God caused this accident.   The Dark Lord, not God, is the author of mischief and confusion and all forms of wrong.   And we don’t have to be afraid, because those who belong to God are under His protection.  But sometimes, instead of totally preventing the Tempter from touching His people, God allows him limited access to our lives as a kind of test – a challenge, an opportunity for us to rise up and win a victory.

For Joe – and for Marion and me – this unexpected setback is proving to be a blessing, an opportunity to say “Yes” to God.   Did I want this to happen?  No, but in the midst of unexpected circumstances, I can truly say that I am blessed, and so thankful to belong to a God who has a greater purpose that He weaves in and through all events for those who trust Him.

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