Challenges, challenges, why challenges? Could it be challenges are good for us? Many times, when challenges come into our lives, overcoming the challenge is what promotes us. Challenges make us more capable, more wise, stronger in spirit and mind. Challenges when met and overcome raise our confidence and resolve. Consider this incredible, ridiculously difficult challenge swimmer Michael Phelps overcame in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The Word for Today wrote this account.
“Michael Phelps captured the gold for his country in the Beijing Olympics and brought home a record eight best-time gold medals. But it won’t just be the number of medals Michael won we’ll remember, but his invincible spirit when things turned drastically against him in the 200-meter butterfly. As he touched the wall, winning the race, nobody knew what he’d undergone to accomplish it.
As Michael pulled off his goggles and the world watched, incredulous, water poured out of them. He’d swum 200-meters almost blind, an experience swimmers dread. Counting strokes, looking desperately for any marks on the pool floor, he finally touched the finish wall, an Olympic conqueror in every sense. Phelps used his frustration to increase his stamina and determination to win.”
What can we learn from his experience? How about endurance? Endurance is a commitment to draw on every ounce of your strength and keep moving forward regardless of the circumstances. As Christians, we draw on God’s grace and strength regardless of circumstances. How about strength of character? Character is an inner fortitude based on personal integrity. How about a confident hope? Confident hope is a deep conviction that whatever it takes, we will ultimately make it to the end. We will push through to victory or give everything we need to accomplish the task we set out to do.
The important thing to realize is whether we win or lose, we gave it everything we have. We didn’t leave anything on the table. That’s where accepting a challenge changes us. We reach into our reserves and God’s reserves to be an overcomer. Most people have more inner strength than they think. They have just never visited that area of their being.
I’m so proud of my grand-daughter Madeleine, or Maddie as she likes to be called. Recently, she was running in the Junior High State Track and Field Championships in the 400-yard relay at Glendale College. This was her school’s first time in the Arizona state championships in their division. She was the second runner in the relay. The first runner in the relay had the lead when she passed the baton to Madeleine. Madeleine ran like a gazelle. She surprised her father and mother, her coach, her teammates, her fans in the stands and most of all, herself. (However, she didn’t surprise her Opa and Nana. We knew she could do it.) She held on to the lead as she finished.
That was a surprise to her and a delight to everyone who knew her. I might add the team ended up winning second place in their first outing in the state track championship. When we asked her how she ran so hard and fast, she said in the excitement of the race she had forgotten to pace herself. She had run the whole 400 yards full blast. She only slowed down the last 100 feet or so.
Do you see that? She possessed more endurance than she ever thought. That was an eye-opener for her, her team on the field, and her team in the stands. Just like Michael Phelps, the challenge in that race took her to places and spaces in her inner being she had never accessed before. The challenge of the race changed her. Remember the lesson here - if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
These days many people give up too soon. They quickly quit. They don’t access what is already in them. When I was a singles pastor at Grace Community Church and Northwest Community Church in the Phoenix area, I saw single after single, loaded with impossible loads they had never experienced before, reach into God and themselves, determined to get back on their feet again.
The most impressive group were women who were recently divorced, in their mid-thirties, with several children and no job experience. When they first came into our Singles Ministry, they thought they would never be healthy and functional again. A few were right about this. But most let the challenge change them. Kudos to those brave-hearted women, who like Michael Phelps with googles full of water, reached into God and themselves, and discovered the finish line and a new life was just ahead. No grit, no pearl.
In other words, you don't need to be great to start, but you need to start to be great! If you want to do something big, give someone something big to think about.
Ed Delph July 29, 2019 CCC (Word for Today May-July 2018 pg. 28.)