One of the key instructions I give in my ministry to Christian young writers and new converts in following Jesus is that of Jesus words, that the sun and rain fall on the just and unjust / righteous and unrighteous, in reference to His grace upon all mankind.
In this my 38th year in Christian ministry I am more than ever convinced that good theology leads to a better understood life, that is an overall more balanced view of all that happens in the world around, our families, friends, sports, the workplace, in sickness and in health.
Sometimes sporting examples are good analogies. Some years ago now at the World Athletics Championships 100 metres sprint event, Jamaica's Usain Bolt took the Gold with a world record of 9.58 seconds. The silver medal went to the USA's Tyson Gay 9.71 seconds and the bronze medal to Jamaican Asafa Powell 9.84 seconds.
All these three sprinters ran their personal best times. Tyson Gay's time was a US 100 metre record. Never in the history of American sprinting has any US athlete run faster in the 100 metre sprint than Tyson Gay did. BUT he won Silver.
Tyson Gay's time astonishingly beat all the great US sprinters times: Jesse Owens in the Berlin 1936 Olympics, Bob Morrow in the Melbourne 1956 Olympics, Bob Hayes in the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, Jim Hines in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Carl Lewis in the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics and even Maurice Greene in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Moreover, there are many of US sprinters who are not on that illustrious list who have nevertheless run world record 100 metre times at various international meets. Some that come to mind are: Calvin Smith; Leroy Burrell; Tim Montgomery, and Justin Gatlin whose 9.77 was the previous best time by a US sprinter, run in Qatar on 12 May 2006.
Yet Tyson Gay's 9.71 silver medal sprint in the 2009 Berlin World Athletic Championships was faster than any previous American. If anything it illustrates again how remarkable was Jamaican Usain Bolt's winning sprint of 9.58 seconds.
I am a Track & Field enthusiast. I pioneered the Sports and Leisure Ministry in 1982 in association with Heads of Churches placing chaplains in professional sport, the Australian cricket team chaplain and author on five books on field hockey. I enjoy reflecting on these athletes and the statistics.
As I considered this long list of champion 100 metre sprinters it became evident that some were committed born-again Christians and some were not. As strange as it might seem, it is Jesus Christ who has something very significant to say about 100 metre sprint world records.
Jesus said (The Sermon on the Mount) Matthew 5 verse 45 "..for He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust". In other words, it's a level playing field, taking into account natural talent, training methods, high tech sprint spikes and an insightful coach. It is God who gives to sprinters such ability, their training possibilities and their mentors.
I'm often reminded of the lad who saw a boxer cross himself and enquired of his dad whether that would help. His father wisely replied, 'Not if he can't box!' Those who imply that being a born-again Christian is like taking a magic pill, are completely wrong-headed. They have poor theology. Such a view fails to see that God is good to all.
Being born-again brings a person into a personal relationships with Jesus and allows the person to give thanks freely in all areas of life. Giving thanks is a very important psychological benefit to human beings.
I was chatting to a well known non-believing journalist at the airport not that long back, and I remarked, the saddest thing for atheists is they have no one to thank. He responded, "They thank their fellow man" - he paused – and responded again - "Thanks some of their fellow men" - by that time he realised he had no where to go as we all fail each other all to often.
A fresh paradigm
The Salvation of Christ brings with it a fresh paradigm, a new world view, with this world view comes a sense of relief that it's no longer your efforts that brings divine approval but what Christ has done for each person through the life, death and followed by the resurrection.
There is a reality that brings an inner peace of heart which may in some situations allow a relaxed disposition but whether this contributes to success is contentious. Remember coaching 101 - some top performers (sport, corporate world, banking, the sciences, the arts .....) function better on pressure and intensity and come out on top.
Whether a sprinter recognises it or not, sprinters are able to run fast because of God's Grace.
Moreover whether we recognise it or not, all the blessings we experience are because of God's Grace.
Becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus is not a mechanism similar to an enhancing performance drug or a magic wand, such as finding a super market car park. Becoming a Christian is about a relationship between Jesus and you / me.
Out of that relationship sometimes the most amazing things happen - miracles of all sorts, big and small – moreover this new world view opens up so many fresh insights and directions, that it one quickly recognises it has nothing to do with 'things' but rather 'a love that passeth understanding'.
Good theology – better understanding. I stand by this statement.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html