Twenty-four professional women golfers (12 from the US and 12 from Europe) and their coaches, faced off in the premier biennial women’s golf event. No money for the players, just the right to represent their countries. Some had high expectations placed on them, others were questioned as to their right to be there, but all wanted one thing--to win.
As I watched the competition unfold and the women stand up to or fold under the intense pressure, Paul’s words and the sporting parallels came to mind.
First, these women have spent years training and disciplining their minds and their bodies for a purpose--one of which was this particular weekend. Paul likewise admonished Christians to be just as diligent in their Christian walk by saying, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore, I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (I Cor. 9:26)
Second, over the course of the three days, both teams had to remember that they could not celebrate victory nor concede defeat until the final point had been made. Paul also reminds Christians that life is more than one win or one failure and that we must persevere and continue. In Philippians 3:13 he writes, “. . . but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Likewise the writer of Hebrews states, “. . . let us lay aside every weight . . . and run with endurance the race that is set before us . . .” (Heb. 12:1).
In this particular Solheim Cup there was a huge controversy surrounding the adhering to a rule and the application of that rule. (Please head to the internet if you want to know more as I am weary of discussing it.) Once again, the Bible proves to be as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Paul reminds his listeners that “. . . if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 5), while Jesus accuses the Pharisees of keeping the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law (Matthew 23). We as Christians also need to be obedient to God’s laws but more importantly remember the spirit those laws. Truth without love may not only be more harmful than helpful but it is also useless (I Cor. 13:1-3).
However, the parallel that struck me most was that of celebration and comfort. When a player had withstood the pressure to land an approach shot a foot from the pin, or hit out of trouble and win the hole, or sink a must-have putt, her coach and teammates celebrated with her. When she succumbed to the pressure and missed a crucial putt or just misread it, or hit a shot into trouble to lose a hole and was subsequently devastated, her coaches and teammates rallied around her to console and encourage her.
Such is our God and so should we be as Christian brothers and sisters. When our fellow Christians withstand the pressure and attacks of the world, colleagues, or peers and remain obedient to God, we should celebrate with them, for we know God is honored and pleased (1 Sam. 15:22). But we also know that a person has, can, or at some point will succumb to the pressure, or miss the mark, or fail in some way and be devastated (as we all can). It is then that we should gather round the individual and comfort and encourage, for that’s what God does. He wraps his arms around us, reminds us that He loves us, and that those mistakes and failings have all been paid for, so we just need to dust ourselves off and get back out there and strive for the goal. Then when our life is over, we like Paul can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 5:7)