It's an exciting time at the moment if, like me, you're a tennis fan. Wimbledon for most is the highlight of the tennis year and British prospects, though limited to a single hope, look strong in Andy Murray... could we finally have a British champion again after such a long wait?
If you didn't see it then you'll have probably at least heard in the news of the epic match over the last few days between Isner and Mahut. It was a marathon of a match, lasting a record 11 hours 5 minutes (beating the previous all-time singles record of 6 hours 33 minutes), with the final set ending at an almost unbelievable 70-68. Unfortunately it didn't go the way that I'd hoped, but nevertheless it was an exciting match.
I only saw the second leg of the match, during which it looked possible that Isner wouldn't literally die of exhaustion, he'd been playing so long (OK, so I may be using slight hyperbole there, but he was very tired!). This got me thinking a bit about the Christian walk.
Perseverance through hardship, struggling with temptation, labouring hard in gospel work, facing trials of many kinds, running with perseverance the race marked out are all ideas of the Christian walk that are banded around. In John Isner you got a glimpse of someone who was well and truly exhausted, yet worked hard and pressed on despite the difficulty because he was committed to the cause.
There are great joys in the Christian walk. Knowing Jesus, having the full assurance of a relationship with God that's based on something that will never fail is a liberating, confidence-building, hope-filled and amazing reality to exist in. But that's not to say that the Christian life is always easy. There are times when it is a real battle, where we feel like one extra thing might be enough to break us, when it seems that everyone and his dog is against us, when one step forward 10 steps back seems to accurately describe reality.
Or are there? I think it's a valid thing to sometimes look at our Christian lives and ask questions about whether or not we are actually striving towards the goal? Are we striving towards holiness? Are we seeking to live a life that is distinctive and Christ-centred? We want to do this from correct motives - as an overflow of gratitude for the grace poured out to us, and in the power of the Spirit. But we want to do it, and as we do it it will be difficult. Fighting sin is a slog. Living for Jesus isn't popular and unpopularity and opposition (even if we put our identity in Christ) can be difficult. So we must at times ask ourselves whether the Christian walk is something we're engaged in and whether the more trying aspects of it are something that we've experienced.
Isner is obviously committed to tennis. He battled on through extreme exhaustion because it mattered to him. He could have not tried and decided next time would be the time that he'd do it. He could have given in to the pressure of his tired body but he persevered. Are our Christian lives ever marked by such perseverance? If not, we should seriously ask ourselves if we are being transformed by the gospel, or just drifting along with the world.