Good morning, I'm the Rev Steve Page from St Patrick's Anglican Church, and you're listening to the Daily Devotional moment, sponsored by the Hudson Bay Ministerial.
This month, I'm drawing our images of Christian faith and spirituality from the wonderful and sometimes weird world of Sports.
Today, let's go back to the 1964 Winter Olympic games in Innsbruck, Austria. It was not a good Olympics for the United States. If you are used to seeing the US dominate whatever it tries, you would have been surprised to find that, by the midpoint of the '64 Olympics, they had only two measly medals, and neither was a gold. They had 1 silver and 1 bronze.
When the day dawned for the 500 meter speed skating competition, the American hopes rested on Terry McDermott, a quiet man who avoided the media and the spotlight as much as he could, and preferred to shut out all the noise and just skate.
That day, his coach decided that McDermott needed to feel a little more pressure. He took a chance and requested that his skater have one of the last races. Whatever advantage they might gain from knowing what the times were to beat would be offset by the ice conditions, which would likely be much worse toward the end of the competition. To add to the challenge, McDermott was going to have to use borrowed skates for the race, because his only pair had broken a few weeks earlier, and repair attempts failed.
The result of the earlier races had a 3-way tie for first place, including a Norwegian skater and two from the Soviet Union.
When the starter pistol fired for McDermott's race, he took off, and pushed himself hard, hard, hard. To everyone's amazement, he crossed the finish line a half-second ahead of the leaders, and set a new Olympic record in the process. More than that, he made his country proud, and prevented the US from going without a gold medal for the first time ever.
Terry McDermott faced a lot of pressure that day, and he rose to the challenge. The pressure brought out the best in him. Some athletes thrive under pressure. They seem to be able to control their adrenaline and get the clutch hit, or the timely goal, or the perfect pass. Others, however, wilt under the pressure. They drop the pass, fan weakly at strike three with the bases loaded, or blow it.
I bet your life has some pressure in it, too. Maybe you don't have the Olympic hopes of a nation riding on your shoulders, but challenges at work to meet quotas or deadlines, or conflicts with your spouse over money, or any number of other things add to the pressure and strain you are under.
Pressure can be a good and necessary thing. Think of the tires on your car. They need a certain amount of air pressure in them. Too little and you can't drive your car. But too much pressure in your tires is also dangerous.
But pressure can either destroy or strengthen us. For example: you can't build up your muscles without resistance, which is another kind of pressure. When you are under such pressure, turn to God and pray for relief and for strength to endure.
Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians chapter 1 and explained to his readers a bit about what he had recently been facing. “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. ... But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”
What a great lesson: rely on God at all times, but especially during those times of great stress and pressure. God is a God of deliverance, and he will bless you with strength and endurance, and with his help you will emerge stronger for the experience.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.