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  • Helen Bent

Anyone for tennis? (30-06-22)

A Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 4. 8 – 15 Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.


A Thought On the whole, I am not very sporty, but I do enjoy playing tennis. I am not very good, despite from time to time having had a few tennis lessons. Part of the problem is that I don’t play often enough to see much real improvement. However, playing against David, I have learnt to cope with a powerful serve thundering towards me and on odd occasions I can play an equally mean forehand return down the line or a sneaky cross court, again way out to the side. This always gives me a feeling of immense pleasure, but my play is far from consistent and I am not really competitive enough to make enough effort to fight for every point.


We are now into Wimbledon fortnight, so along with many others I am keenly watching the progress of our British hopefuls. As I was reading the pre-Wimbledon bulletins about Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray and the various concerns about their levels of fitness, I was struck afresh by the commitment and personal cost of being a professional tennis player. Injury is an occupational hazard and I must say, I don’t find the idea of regular ice baths after long match particularly attractive.


This in turn reminded me of the recommendations in 1 Timothy 4. Physical training is certainly of some value, but godliness has value for all things in this present life and in the life to come. This too comes at a cost and requires ongoing dedication and commitment from disciples of Jesus. The word disciple is derived from the same root as the word discipline, so it is not surprising that becoming a disciple takes time, effort and long-term commitment.


We grow in godliness when we devote ourselves to regular personal reading of Scripture and prayer, and when we regularly attend worship together with others. The Holy Spirit promises us gifts and fruit, which again develop and demonstrate godliness within us. I wonder what would happen if we pursued the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – with the same discipline that we see in the tennis stars as they train for Wimbledon. If we were diligent in these matters, surely people would notice a significant difference in our personality and behaviour.


A Prayer Lord Jesus, may we grow in godliness day by day. Holy Spirit, help us and equip us, so that we set an example for others in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Amen.

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