I’m missing the thought of Wimbledon this year as I love to watch this tennis tournament. One of the things I really appreciate about tennis is the unexpected triumph, those matches when a player looks completely beaten (two sets to love down and a break against them in the third set) and yet makes a comeback which astounds and astonishes spectators.
As with life, tennis is often fairly predictable. Good players beat the not-so-good players with polished regularity; it’s why there are rankings! But occasionally, the good players have to prove their greatness by defying the odds and coming back from seemingly impossible situations. These matches prove that mental stamina matters as much as physical stamina. Ivan Lendl said of his 1984 French Open Final victory against John McEnroe (which he won 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5), ‘I felt that once I could break him, I could do it again.’ There has to be a self-belief and determination not to give in; as Stefan Edberg put it after his 1988 Wimbledon semi-final victory against Miloslav Mecir (4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4), ‘I wouldn’t have won today if I didn’t have guts.’
How do tennis players turn ‘inevitable’ defeats into ‘impossible’ victory? Andy Murray provides a clue when commenting on his 2013 Wimbledon quarter-final victory over Fernando Verdasco (4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5): ‘When you play more and more matches and gain more experience, you understand how to turn matches around and how to change the momentum of games.’
Experience matters. Tenacity triumphs. Having that positive mental attitude and a determination to recognise that every point is worth fighting for are what turn mediocre players into good players and good players into great ones.
It’s the same in our Christian life, except we have the added bonus that it’s not all down to us! Many times we face situations that truly are impossible, no matter how experienced, tenacious and determined we are. But defeat is not ‘inevitable.’ ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom 8:31) God is the God of the unexpected victory! – and how sweet the victory He brings!
So often in life, we face inevitable defeat – but then God makes a way. With the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s chariots closing in behind them, the Israelites were doomed to death – until God parted the Red Sea and made a way through. When Israel came to Jericho, they found an impregnable city – until God reduced the walls to rubble without them lifting a finger (they just had to lift their voices in a faith-filled cry of victory!) God is able to do ‘immeasurably more’ than all we ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20) He is the comeback king personified!
Our part in this is simple: to believe God. We have to develop a ‘trust God’ mentality that says, ‘even if this situation looks impossible, I will still believe God is greater than what I see.’ We become like rubber balls: able to bounce back!
We may not be able to watch Wimbledon this year, but we can still see God move in impossible situations and turn inevitable defeat into miraculous victory.