In Australia, it’s football finals time and the U.S. the last Grand Slam event for the year has just concluded. I find a lot of life lessons from observing elite athletes — including and especially those who play football and those who play tennis. Most people might consider football to be a team sport and tennis to be individual sport. But the distinction is not so clear these days. Often times footballers are individually coached by “position coaches” and a tennis player is often just who the public sees of a team of people responsible for the performance of that player. At the time of writing, there are remaining four Australian Rules Football (AFL) teams about to play off in the Preliminary Finals (including my beloved Geelong Cats). Last weekend, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway. Both players have intriguing stories which I will mention shortly. In the AFL, after a disastrous last season, the Collingwood Magpies appointed a new coach for this season, Craig McRae. Even though they got off to a slow start this season, under McRae’s oversight ended up having an 11-straight winning streak toward the end of the season and now look like genuine Premiership contenders. What do Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Craig McRae, and the Collingwood football team, all have in common? All the players at the elite level of their sport make an enormous commitment to train, practice, sleep, hydrate, and eat a regulated diet. Yet at the very highest levels in their respective sporting codes the difference between the elite and the extra-elite is no longer skill or fitness. In fact, the difference between them is so applicable to everyday life that it may be the most relevant and do-able thing you hear for a long time. So, think about this.
Disappointment with God is often caused by a misunderstanding about who God is and how His will intersects with our lives. Some of the most popular faith preachers boldly declare that it is never God’s will for His children to ever experience pain, sickness, or difficulty. These adversities, they declare, are the attacks of the Devil. By exercising the power of faith and making positive confession, they claim, such devilish adversities can be overcome. The problem is, of course, that despite how many thousands of devoted followers some of these faith-preachers have, reality bites each of them. There is of course great value in being an optimist and tending toward a positive outlook. In fact, I am about to make the case that if we adopt realism rather than optimism as our Biblically-informed outlook for life, we will be more wondrous of God than disappointed with Him. But to begin to achieve this, what I am about to say may shock you!