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Tennis Mirrors Christian Lifeby Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
As I write this my eyes are glued to the TV watching the Wimbledon 2004 Women's finals match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Williams is trying for her third Wimbledon Championship. For Sharapova, at age 17, this is her first time in the finals. In the first set, Sharapova cleans Serena's clock at 6-1, the first time that's ever happened to athletic Serena in a match such as this. Serena is on her heels. But now into the second set, Sharapova is faltering and Serena is regaining her poise.
As I watch this tremendous battle on Center Court, I can't help but think that in some ways this tennis match mirrors life. I played varsity tennis for four years in high school, so I know a bit of what goes on during a match.
Several parallels come to mind. First, tennis is filled with errors. Most every serve, nearly every volley will end in a point attributable to someone's mistake. Mistakes are part of the game. The very best players make mistakes. But winners learn how to deal with their own lack of perfection — in spite of years of practice — and still go on.
Second, it isn't over 'til it's over. A tennis match requires two winning sets before the game is complete. You can blow the first set and still get your legs under you again. It's hard, but you can do it. You can come back in the second and third sets and still win. Earlier this week, Serena was down a set, and rallied to win. Don't give up just because you lost the first round.
Third, mental toughness is just as important — even more important — than raw talent and skill. If you get down on yourself, if you lose your focus, if you lose your confidence that you can win this game, it is fatal. I know what it feels like to win, as well as the extreme frustration of losing to someone who isn't as skilled as I. It requires mental toughness to come back from being battered down by an opponent.
As I write, I can't keep my eyes off the televised game. Sharapova keeps up her amazing accuracy and hammering baseline shots. The match finishes — 6-1, 6-4 — and Maria Sharapova unseats the champion in two sets. With graciousness Serena congratulates her winning opponent.
Which brings me to a fourth point — there is another day. Whether we win or lose today, the world isn't over. Life goes on. You may have been beaten down by life. You may have been crushed by circumstances. Satan may have played to your weak side and gotten the better of you. But don't give up. Don't quit. Perseverance is vital to the Christian life — steadfastness, the will to continue even against the odds.
Fortunately, life is not like tennis is one singular point. When you are playing a singles match, you're on your own. But in the Game of Life, Christ is with you. The Holy Spirit is present to strengthen you. Your Christian brothers and sisters are rooting for you and there to encourage you in the fray. You are not alone. Draw on the resources God has given you. Don't be a foolish loner.
I think of the Apostle Paul who saw many spiritual victories, but went through depression, beatings, deprivation, prison, shipwreck, betrayal, and abandonment. Near the end of his life, he wasn't looking back in bitterness, but forward in hope.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Don't give up. Don't quit. You live to fight another day with Christ at your side. And you — with Christ — will prevail! Count on it! I read the last chapter of the Book. We win!
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