Jo Acharya | July 9, 2021
We all love a good story. Our passions are ignited by epic journeys, underdogs who never give up and heroes who triumph over adversity.
The England men’s football team finally making it to the final of an international tournament for the first time since 1966 – there’s a good story. All the better for the timing, coming after sixteen months of coping with the pandemic and its many devastating consequences. More than ever, the eleven men on the pitch seem to represent us all, shaping the messy and painful complexity of our shared experience into a compelling narrative of perseverance, courage, and hope against the odds.
At this point, I should confess that I’m not that interested in football. I’m typically a ‘check the score tomorrow morning’ kind of supporter, and for Wednesday’s semi-final I was a ‘have it on in the background and look up from my phone when the crowd cheer’ kind of supporter.
But for those who love it, the stretches in between the cheers are every bit as exciting as the sudden moments of drama. The near misses, the strategic misdirects, and the elite skill on display make the game riveting for true fans from start to finish.
And the players themselves know that every practice is part of a much deeper journey as they press on toward the goal. Each choice during an important match contains within it the sum of a thousand other choices made through a lifetime of lived experience.
To become like Jesus
Life is like that too, isn’t it? I’m sure if you look back, you can identify a handful of big moments: births, deaths, marriages, perhaps a life changing accomplishment or diagnosis. But life is primarily lived in the in-between. The daily routine, conversations that deepen relationships, the working out of conflicts. A thousand small choices, seemingly insignificant, that take you along a path towards the person you are becoming.
If you know the Bible well you might already be remembering the passage where Paul says this:
I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Did you catch that? Paul’s goal was two-fold: to know Jesus, and to become like Jesus. That’s what he counted as the highest prize, and the purpose for which he was called by God. The other important tasks that God had given him were secondary, and would follow on from this central goal. He would not always be preaching the Gospel or defending himself to Roman authorities or singing praise songs in prison. Sometimes he would be making tents, eating with friends, resting or recovering from illness. In the dramatic moments and all the in-betweens, he could seek to know Jesus more every day and to follow in his footsteps.
The good news is that God is not a ‘look up when the crowd cheers’ kind of supporter. He doesn’t suddenly show up in the dramatic moments to test how we react and give us a pass or fail. Instead, he is with us as we walk out our faith in everyday life, in all our small, ordinary moments, however unimportant they may seem to us. He is always prompting, reminding, enjoying our company and guiding us along the right path.
And the even better news is that the small, everyday moments are not just practice for a big match coming up. They are the match. Your whole life is the story. It all matters, far more than you will ever know this side of eternity. Every day is an opportunity to know and become like Jesus in ever-deepening ways. This is the goal of Christian life. This is why we are here.
This Sunday evening, as you watch the back and forth of that ball on the pitch, think of all those small choices that you make each day as you press on towards the goal. And think of God’s presence with you, shaping your story into a compelling narrative of perseverance, courage, and hope in him.
If you found this article helpful, you might enjoy my book ‘Refresh’. It’s a beautiful devotional journal exploring God’s plan for living well in every area of life. The 52 short reflections are filled with Biblical wisdom and gentle encouragement for the everyday. Get a signed copy in our store, or pick it up on Amazon.