October 8, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Don't Give Up
By Rachel Olsen - ETC Editor, Proverbs 31 Speaker Team Member
Being a former gymnast, I am a huge gymnastics fan. I spent countless hours of my childhood and teenage years perched atop a 4" wide beam, swinging between uneven bars, tumbling across a spring-filled floor and hurling myself over a horse, hoping I'd stick my landing. In fact, one summer I tried training away from home at one of the nation's elite level gyms. Visions of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea danced in my head.
As it turns out, while physically talented, I didn't have the mental toughness to compete at that level. The coaches were unrelenting in attitude and expectation. Sympathy was unheard of. I had never felt so much pressure, daily. Being an encourager by nature, I didn't exactly flourish in this environment where praise was rarely offered.
My biggest problem, however, was not with the coaches but within myself. When I made a mistake in a routine, I had trouble not letting it negatively impact the rest of my routine or even the rest of the competition. I accepted defeat too easily in my mind - often before my body or circumstances even produced it. Great athletes never accept defeat before the competition is over.
If you watched the men's all-around gymnastics competition in Athens this summer, you saw an awesome lesson on overcoming defeat. American favorite Paul Hahn performed a quality vault but fell drastically on his landing - off the mat and into the judges' table! Before this vault Hahn was in first place, afterwards he dropped to twelfth. This mistake is not one a gymnast generally recovers from when competing against the best in the world. Everyone was stunned, including Hahn. It seemed his shot at an Olympic all-around medal had just vanished. I nearly cried watching from my sofa, empathizing with his feelings of defeated dreams.
However, if we could've looked forward in time at that moment (as God can) we would've seen that Hahn had not been defeated. With two events left, the other top gymnasts each made a few mistakes. Hahn kept his wits about him and turned in two stunning performances. He did something I always had trouble doing after a fall like that - He refused to accept defeat. He went on to capture the Olympic gold medal!
Hahn was clearly shaken and disappointed after his vault but he took control of his mind and went into his next routine expecting to score well. As a result, his remaining routines were as solid as ever. If Hahn had mentally accepted defeat after his embarrassing fall, the shoulder that had bothered him after the steel rings exercise would have begun throbbing with pain. Exhaustion would have set in as the adrenalin drained from his body. His excitement would be replaced with feelings of depression. He would have spent the rest of the competition wishing it were already over. He would not have produced the stellar routines it took to capture the gold - in fact, he would not have captured any medal that day.
Let Hahn's triumph be a lesson to us all: It's always too early to give up! Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things yet unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Hahn's gold medal was definitely unlikely, even illogical after his disaster on vault; nonetheless, it was a reality in his future. Faith often defies logic, as does God. Just ask Moses (Exodus 14:22), or Daniel (Daniel 6:20), or Rahab (Joshua. 6:25) or Mary (Matthew 1:18).
Accepting defeat in our mind can prompt us to live it out in our life. By the same token, praying and acting with hope allows God to move mountains on our behalf. Let us not look at our circumstances, our mistakes, or the world's scoreboard and conclude that we are defeated. We serve an awesome God, a mighty God. He uses our faith - no matter how small - to activate His power in our lives (Mt 15:28). For this God we serve, nothing is impossible!
My prayer for today:
Lord, I want to persevere in the faith, especially when I make mistakes. Help me to trust your hand is at work in my life, even when I can't see it ... in the power of Jesus' name I pray.
List two or three areas of your life where you need God's active power and victory. Then pray specifically, with hope and expectation for God's hand to move in these areas.
If having faith were an Olympic event, would you qualify for the team?
Do you give up when you fall, or do you press on to win God's gold?
Faith originates with God, and only works because God chooses to work through it. (Hebrews 12:2)
Athletes exercise their God-given muscles in order to achieve their desire to perform well. Faith is something, God-given, that we exercise in order to achieve the life He has planned for us.
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. Philippians 3:12 (NLT)
"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (NLT)
The apostles came up and said to the Master, "Give us more faith." But the Master said, "You don't need more faith. There is no 'more' or 'less' in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Go jump in the lake,' and it would do it. Luke 17:5-6 (MSG)
"Woman," Jesus said to her, "your faith is great. Your request is granted." And her daughter was instantly healed. Matthew 15:28 (NLT)
... This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's." 2 Chronicles 20:15 (NLT)
How to Live a Life of Victory, tape set by Mary Southerland
Living the Life You've Always Wanted, tape set by Mary Southerland