CHRISTIAN COMMENT: After our ‘Summer of Sport’

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It’s been absolutely huge. HUGE. Sport GB – or whatever we may call it.

Andy Murray – the cherry on the top of the immensely rich fruit cake of the Games. Lewis Hamilton. Even some cricket and ... er.... football. Extraordinary. Exhausting.

What now? That seems to be question facing the country, certainly those tasked with setting major policies. How do we maintain ‘the spirit of the games’ (as one headline phrased it yesterday)?

What does that mean? Has it to do with competition, fair play, producing one’s absolute best? Maybe.

I suspect, though, that it has to do with the feel-good factor. It’s about keeping that nerve-jangle of striving and the warm glow of winning. It’s about keeping the national psyche happy.

Boy, are we going to need that! The TUC chose this Monday to announce a programme of concerted strike action. At the same time, we’re being told that disastrous harvests world-wide are going to cause massive food shortages. And last week’s policy change by the European Central Bank may not solve the euro crisis.

Nice forecast.

It so happens that – also at the start of the week – I met with a small group of Christians. One of the things we did was to look at a psalm – number 147. We were each asked to pick a verse that ‘spoke’ to us particularly.

Quite independently, over half the group – given a choice of 20 verses – chose the same one (well, two). And they are decidedly odd....... God’s pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

What’s all that about? Several said that it sounded like a reference to the Olympics. More precisely, a memory of that moment when Clare Balding rhapsodised (but with great knowledge) on the wonders of dressage – and was immediately followed by a switch to the Olympic Stadium for a track event. (Which? No idea. Too many wonderful memories)

Why doesn’t God share our enthusiasm? Well, I think He does. He made us, after all, and is thrilled when we make the very most of His creation.

So to say ‘God’s pleasure’ gives the wrong sense of the original language. It really means ‘God doesn’t get complete satisfaction from the performance of a horse nor from a man’s running.’ Which sounds even more linked to the Games but with a different emphasis.

I think God will have taken great pleasure on this summer’s Games. It’s been a triumph in every respect. He loves it when we are happy and successful, rejoicing in all that we have.

BUT if that is the most that we can rejoice in, hope for, expect from life..... if that’s our only way to go for satisfaction, then we’re in for trouble. Look at those predictions of what lies ahead – strikes, shortages, crises.

Can we repeat the London Games? Can Andy Murray win his first Grand Slam? Of course not. Can we reach such amazing heights of patriotic fervour and pride as in this Jubilee year? Not for a long while, I guess.

So God says ‘That’s right. None of these things you find satisfaction in is going to last for long. Nor be easily repeated. But get to know Me, put your trust in Me, commit your life and all its details to Me – and you’ll be really satisfied. Not just when everything seems to be going swimmingly, but in the tough times too. Seeing people do that is what satisfies Me too.’

At the climax of weeks of intense competition, sounds like a win-win.

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who lives and works in Worthing