Those who witnessed the winning of Australia’s first gold medal at a Winter Olympics will never forget the circumstances. Speed skater Steve Bradbury, racing in the 1500 metre final, began to trail off in the last few laps as his energy began to wane. The three more favoured skaters began jostling for positions in the lead as the finish line became closer, only to trip one another up and send themselves sprawling across the ice. Smiling broadly, Steve Bradbury could not believe his good fortune as the pathway to a gold medal opened up before him.
While many describe him as the most fortunate gold medal winner in Olympic history, it can mask a couple of qualities which allowed him to take that prime place on the dais. Clearly he was not the best skater competing in the race, but he had honed the ability given to him to enable him to reach that level. That required something more substantial than luck. At the same time, while he knew he had run his race in the final, he did not pull out. He kept going – to the best of his ability – and was there when the opportunity presented itself. Fortunate in one sense, but his luck was made possible because he had worked hard enough to get into a position where he could benefit from it. He would not listen to those who would tell him to give up because he had no chance.
If you had listened to the pundits, Australia was wasting its time turning up for last night’s Rugby World Cup game. Form and talent suggested that the odds were correct, but Australia had different ideas. Under early pressure, a chance intercept opened up the first scoring opportunity, and the pressure all of a sudden was on the favourites. They could not answer the call.
Jesus’ disciples were on a sure loser when they watched their teacher being crucified. All was lost – so many of them indeed thought. But God had other ideas. On the eighth day (of Holy Week), God acted, raising Jesus from death, and so turning history on its head.
Maybe we do have no chance, as the pundits view it. Maybe there are good reasons for us giving up in one area or other of our life. But hang in there, in hope of an eighth day. History shows perseverance brings rewards. It is the echoing word to the churches in Revelation.
November 16, 2003