These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Friday, 3 February 2012

"Step up, there are questions to be answered"

In the Northern Hemisphere the primary International rugby competition is the 6 Nations Championship, contested by England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy. With the 2011 Rugby World Cup fresh in the memory, many players will feel they have points to prove, or scores to settle. Those newly called up to the squads will have the expectation of making a lasting impression for all of the right reasons and to secure match day selection. But when it comes down to it, what does it take?

I have been reading the views of a former player and respected rugby commentator who recalls that "passion" is a given, but its not enough to win a test match. I guess if you can't feel a surge of pride when you pull on the colors of your country, when can you? What else does it take? Well, each position has 3 or 4 key roles and if every man plays his part and does it better than his opposite number, the team will win. There's a certain logic to that view. The article continued that if you were playing the opposition in a club match, you wouldn't fear them, so why fear them when they pull on an international jersey? Again, there is logic to that - a player doesn't automatically get better because he is wearing a different shirt - a little more passion perhaps, but fitter, stronger, technically and tactically more astute?

What makes a person step up to the mark when the test comes. Who can answer the questions asked by unforgiving and unrelenting opposition? The difference is the ability to hold things together when the pressure comes - under the scrutiny of thousands in a stadium and millions of armchair experts watching by TV. In a media driven world, there is nowhere to hide. The game changers will be those who can hold their nerve at crucial times. Those who do what they have always done; in training when no one is watching, routinely week in week out - they will have an answer.

Life throws up challenges everyday, it can feel unrelenting sometimes cant it? There are times when we feel like bolting or running, but ultimately there is nowhere to hide; we have to find answers.
The bible has a revealing insight into the nature of God and his relationship with man. It records an account of a man called Job. He faced trial after trial. His world had been devastated by personal tragedy. He was experiencing stress, anxiety and loss. In some ways, he is unique. Yet he is "every man" - for who doesn't face trials and tests, we want solutions, we seek calm, space, time to think. We have well meaning people, who try to advise and make things more confusing - just like Job. 

Isn't that the moment you'd expect an intervening act from a "loving", "caring" God. Instead, just like in the tough, physical test arena, God asks searching questions. In fact he said to Job "man up, I've got some questions to ask you, that you must answer" - True love isn't built on sentiment or platitude and just as in a game, passion alone wont see us through. True love is a conscious choice, a decision. It's a resolve that may be shaped by circumstances, but ultimately isn't defined by them. Sure, there is passion, there is emotion. But the question to Job was aimed at helping him see who he really was; regardless of circumstance. Then to see God with him in his circumstance and beyond, as part of a much bigger picture. If we can discover relationship that reaches beyond sentiment, that brings out the best in us and to whose cause we can add our strength - then we are on the way to becoming "game changers".

In the physical, emotional and mental pressure of the test arena, those who know who they are, what they are capable of and who have a sense of being a part of something bigger than their own ego, will make a difference. What questions are you being asked? Where are you finding your answers? Faith, reaches out to a God who asks us to reach beyond ourselves. For me, the challenge is to pull the shirt on and go live out the difference. Are you up for it?

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