'Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.' Philippians 3 v 13-14.
At the time of writing this blog there are just under 11 weeks until the Olympic games in Tokyo, postponed from 2020. I can hardly believe that it is time for another games. It seems like only yesterday that I was watching the London Olympics in 2012 and cheering on Team GB with patriotic fervour. The daily newspaper reports of victory and triumph were a joy to read and life seemed good. Team GB's slogan was 'Better never stops' and seemed to speak of their aspirations of more medals and records than had been achieved in any previous Olympic games. By the end of the games those aspirations seemed to have been fulfilled.
Like me, you may have watched the Olympics at home, you may have actually attended the Olympics or you may not have been interested in them at all, but I think we can all look back and identify a season or an event that conjures up memories of great triumph and joy for ourselves personally, our family or an organisation we have been part of. Life holds many mountain tops where life seems full and fun and everything feels as if it is going well.
Nine years on from those Olympic games we have experienced life’s ebbs and flows and not all of them have been glorious. Far from it, the pandemic that we are currently navigating through has felt awful for many. With so many things having been stripped back in our lives it has been tempting to reminisce and look back on better times, hasn't it? Is that not what happens in the Winter? We consume what has been stored up throughout the Summer. If you have had a similar spiritual experience to me, you will have had to draw on the resources you had stored up previous to the pandemic in order to get through. My faith store was tapped into quite considerably along with my knowledge of scripture. My experiences of God in the past and all he had done carried me through when I could not see the end of the restrictions and stresses. The deep knowledge of his character comforted me when my class had to isolate, when I couldn't see treasured family and friends and when going to work seemed a huge risk to those I love. It truly felt like a Winter season in my life and it was easy to wish I was back in the past when things had seemed so comfortable and easy.
The thread of newness running through our sermons and blogs at HT of late is hard to deviate from at this time. It is difficult not to hear the voice of God calling us to new and better. As we approach the next games, we can anticipate seeing new athletes, new events, new stories, new records and fresh triumphs. There will be firsts and achievements that have been unprecedented. “Better” will be seen. It will also be important for veteran athletes to forget former glories and titles in order to focus on the new challenge ahead.
As we continue to progress out of lockdown, we are one step further towards the new things and the firsts that God has ready to unveil. In order to see these things, I know I must let go of the former things I have enjoyed and achievements I have attained, like an athlete preparing for a new Olympics. “Better” always lies ahead with God. Be encouraged that whatever you have lost over the course of the pandemic and whatever disappointments you have experienced, God has more for you and new mountain tops ahead. He wants to continue to partner with you in achieving your best for his glory, working in you, for you and through you ready to unfold the next stage of his plans for you. All Christians are on a journey onwards and upwards with our ultimate destination being eternity with him.
'Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.' Philippians 1v 6 NIV.