On the opening day of the tournament, a talented teenager by the name of Cori Gauff gained victory over her opponent and heroine Venus Williams in an entertaining match that brought out the best of both youth and experience. Gauff maintained remarkable composure, brilliant shot selection and high- top spin shots that the crowd marvelled at. She may even go on to win the tournament and not only live her dreams, but continue fulfilingl them. Wimbledon is the pinnacle of tennis tournaments but what is there beyond Wimbledon and the tennis world?
Getting the serves in
If the ball lands outside the service box on the second serve, then the point is lost. Similarly, the term ‘sin’ is an archery term meaning “missing the mark’. The archer completely misses the board and the arrow drops short. Irrespective of a player’s ranking they can never attain perfection and will inevitably lose points and possibly games, sets and matches. Similarly all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
During a match sometimes errors are forced and at other times they are unforced. The same is true in life since there are occasions when we do things that contravene God’s law that we shouldn’t do and in addition there are things that we shouldn’t do that we do, known as sins of commission and omission. No matter how hard we try, there are also things that we wish we would do and the things that we wish we wouldn’t do, we frustratingly still find ourselves doing as the Apostle Paul, author of a third of the New Testament discovered in his greatest work in the book of Romans 7:19. No one has ever played an entirely perfect match and if we are honest and realistic we will recognise that we are not perfect either.
Playing by the Rules
Anyone who competes at tennis must do so within the rules. The game is codified, there is a scoreboard, Hawk-Eye and ultimately an Umpire, who makes the final judgement and whose decision is the last call.
God gave the children of Israel the law and the Ten Commandments. The law is akin to a mirror and shows us how we have fallen short. Sin is also lawlessness. Some may think they are higher up the moral ladder than others though James 2:10 tells us that those who have broken one law are guilty of breaking the whole law. The scoreboard tells the story of the match and we will have to give an account for everything we say and do. Hawk-Eye is useful for making the close calls and nothing falls under, over, or through God’s eyes or evades His heavenly net. The God of the Bible is sovereign and the perfect judge of the whole earth and does what is right.
Trying to save the match
Part of competing is trying to salvage a point, game, set or a match by making a comeback. Sometimes this is possible on the court and at other times matches seem to run away from us and even though we can play another match, it will inevitably have no consequence on the previous match other than possibly improving our ranking.
Moving up the rankings requires determination, resolve and hard work. When salvation is in question however, we cannot save ourselves and no amount of works regardless of sacrifice, quantity of quality of effort or performance can save us. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in Chapter 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” A helpful acronym for grace is God’s Redeeming Act at Christ’s Expense or more simply ‘unmerited favour’.
Love is a unique term that is present in every single game, set and match of tennis ever played. The love of God is central to the Gospel. In fact, by definition God is love (1 John 4:8). God is holy (1 Peter 1:16) and the righteous judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25), so He must punish sin, though He has provided a means by which we may be saved.
A righteous judge could not simply give someone a pardon for a crime committed, since that would violate justice. Astoundingly God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). There is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13) and that is exactly what God did by sending His Son to bear the punishment for our sins that we justly deserved for breaking His law. The good news is that for those who trust in the Lord, though sin entered through Adam, eternal life comes through the Lord Jesus.
The eternal gospel
Sometimes a Championship match can go on and on and on especially in the closing stages. It seems worth it though, for the prize of winning and having one’s name etched in that golden trophy and enjoying a few moments of adulation from multitudes of admiring onlookers. After the celebrations and needed rest are over, preparations are put in place to defend the title for the following year. The glory is short lived!
In tennis and also in life, everything eventually wears out since it is temporary and transitory. Top players have a high turnover of racquets and new balls are provided in a single match. Even the grass wears out on Centre Court! When a person repents, (turns from their sin) and trusts in the Lord they are regenerated (born again) and they enter into new life. God’s word is everlasting. ‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:31).’ Similarly, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).’