This past Saturday night, while much of the sporting nation was watching the NCAA basketball tournament, I was watching soccer. In the international friendly (i. e., exhibition match) between the United States and Argentina, I watched some of the most interesting and exciting soccer anyone could ever hope to see. The result was a 1-1 draw, despite the fact that the US team was facing, in Argentina, arguably the best national team in the world. What made the difference? Tim Howard. The American goalkeeper was under attack all night, with the talented South American squad applying relentless pressure throughout the match. While, for much of the game, the US team struggled to create opportunities to score, the Argentinians camped out in the US penalty area. The only thing that kept the Americans in the game was Howard’s superior performance in goal, aided by his fellow defenders, while under extraordinarily intense pressure.
Life is like that. Someone said that life is like the weather—there are times of high pressure and low pressure, but there are no times of no pressure. So, how do we respond to the pressures of life? For the follower of Christ, it comes from realizing a strength beyond our own—a strength rooted in the provision of our God. While battling the unyielding pressure of an unnamed “thorn in the flesh,” the apostle Paul found more than he had ever imagined. He found the sufficiency of grace, writing:
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
It is true—only when our strength reaches its end will we ever comprehend the strength of the grace of God. And, that can only be experienced when we are under pressure. The real question is this: will I rest in my own strength, or will I trust in the One whose strength is made perfect in my moments of weakness? How we respond under pressure will reveal the answer to that question.
Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain