This morning I woke up and let the dog out. When I returned to the house, Janet had the TV on and was trying to find ESPN, as today marks the most important tennis match of the year. For today was the Gentleman’s Finals at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, better known to most of us as Wimbledon. What’s odd about this is that in the old days, watching the finals was a ritual with the two of us. Our entire family played tennis, which we started doing as youngsters in the early 60’s. Janet’s folks kind of started the whole thing when they joined the Beverly Hills Tennis Club near our home way back when. In those days, you had to be dressed in white to go on the court and that club is where I took my first tennis lessons.
Eventually, Janet and I played extensively and even played competitively for a while. Janet and her team actually went to the district competition in Kalamazoo, MI several times. I was never as good at the game as she was, and the teams I was on never made it that far in our team competitions. One year, there was a parent/child tournament at our local tennis club here in Carmel. It ended up that Jill and I played Janet and Kristin in the club championship. That was quite an experience!
And both Kristin and Jill were avid tennis players as well. Both of them played competitively at the high school level and even played doubles together during Kristin’s senior year. At one point, Jill, as a very young player, was even ranked in the whole midwest region of the U.S. But unlike so many families whose lives revolved around the court, none of us was under the impression that tennis would be anything other than a pastime for anybody in our family.
Back in the mid-90’s, I gave up the game. It had gotten to the point that I became too competitive and just didn’t enjoy it anymore. It was no longer about the camaraderie – it was about the winning. And I found that my identity was more and more wrapped around whether I won or lost. Finally, I just quit cold turkey. Since then, Janet and the rest of the family has given up playing as well. I really don’t know why, now that I think about it. But I really don’t miss it; it’s just a closed chapter.
But I have to admit that I really enjoyed watching the tennis today. And I haven’t watched tennis in many years. But it’s kind of like riding a bicycle. It comes right back – the topspin backhands, cross court forehands, slices, drop shots and all the other weapons in the arsenals of these world class players. Earlier in our marriage, the Gentleman’s Final at Wimbledon consumed our entire day. We brought in bagels and spent the entire time glued to the TV set watching some of the best matches of our lives. In fact, we both remarked this morning that the best match we ever saw was between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, who happened to be the commentator today on ESPN.
The point of all this is that I am not as passionate about tennis today as I was years ago. When I first got started, I was on fire for the game. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is sometimes the same way with our faith. When we first come to faith, most of us are real passionate about learning more and really living our beliefs. Then, somewhere along the path, the bloom falls off the rose and we become a little more mundane about our faith. We go through periods of intense devotion but it becomes more difficult to be on fire for the Lord all the time. I don’t mean that we discontinue our beliefs, merely that to maintain a constantly high level of commitment is a rarity these days.
And then, every so often, like today with Wimbledon, we get reminded of the old days and how intense we were about things – including our faith. Paul and the other writers of the New Testament knew about these sorts of periods in the lives of believers as well. In fact, the writer of Hebrews wrote about the faith of the people and reminded them about how intense they were when they first came to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. In Heb. 10:32 we are told, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.” Back in those days, and certainly in some corners of the world today, believers were subjected ro ridicule and adversity when they came to faith. Hebrew’s author challenged the people to remember how they felt when they came to faith.
That’s a great reminder for all of us. My encouragement this evening is to remind you of how committed to the faith you were when you first came to believe. Hopefully, that light still shines bright, but in case it flickers from time to time, my prayer is that you will re-dedicate yourself to maintaining the type of passion that you had when you first came to know the saving grace of a life with Jesus Christ. Have a great day in the Lord; grace and peace…