I listened to an interview with Australian swimmer Susie O’Niell.
She was affectionately known as Madam Butterfly as she dominated the pool with her butterfly swim style.
Leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics she was the champion of the 200m butterfly.
She held the world record and was about to swim in front of her home crowd.
She felt couldn’t lose – but she came in second.
In the interview she re-watched that race.
She entered the 200m butterfly final as the defending Olympic champion who hadn’t been beaten for six years.
She broke the event’s 19-year-old world record during the selection trials.
If you were a gambler you would have put everything on O’Neill walking away with her second gold medal of the games.
She qualified fastest for the final.
But to everyone’s surprise she came in 2nd.
As she watched the replay during her interview she broke down and saw herself as a failure.
2nd fastest in the world but she didn’t see it that way as there was only first place that was considered as successful.
My heart went out to her because she is not a failure.
No one is a failure.
Just because we sometimes don’t achieve what we hope to achieve doesn’t mean we’re failures.
And, to me, that’s the wonderful thing about having faith in God.
That no matter what happens in life that we have a God who loves us and has prepared a home in heaven for us which is our goal in life.
A goal which has been achieved for us by Jesus.
Sadly we have placed grand expectations on ourselves to achieve in this lifetime.
And sadly those expectations are not always met.
How comforting to know that when our expectations are not met that God never sees us as a failure.
We might see ourselves as failures at times.
The world might judge us as failures at times.
But God does not.
St Paul says today – God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The truth that God loves the world so much and for all people to be saved through Jesus Christ.
God’s desire is to have everyone live with him in heaven and that makes us all winners in the eyes of God.
We live in a world where we feel we need to measure up.
But not before God, as Jesus Christ has measured up for us.
We don’t have to achieve anything.
We don’t have to come first – or make the top 10.
No, Jesus has run the race and won the crown of glory for us.
And that’s why Paul says – there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.
Only Jesus has won the victory that assures us of eternal life.
Sometimes the Christian faith can seem exclusive because we claim that Jesus is the only way to assure our salvation.
But it is in fact the very opposite of that because it claims that all people are loved by God and that God’s desire all people to be saved.
That is at the very heart of our belief – that God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son so that WHOEVER believes in him has eternal life.
Yes it sounds exclusive at times when he hear teachings like this one that says there is only one mediator between God and humankind.
Or when the book of Acts says – There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Or in fact by Jesus himself who says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
But what some might say is exclusive is actually inclusive because all people are given access through Jesus Christ and guaranteed the path to eternal life.
Whoever calls on the name of the Lord WILL be saved.
There is so much assurance because there is no confusion as to the path to salvation.
It is not by good works – otherwise how would we ever know whether we’ve done enough.
I’m sure that if I had to rely on my good works for eternal life I would completely fail.
It’s not by other religions – how could we ever be sure if we’ve chosen the right one.
But, as Paul says – Jesus has paid the ransom to obtain us freedom.
Even as a Christian I sometimes feel as if I’ve failed but then I’m reminded through my Baptism that Jesus has paid for my failure by his own life.
To many people his death seemed failure but we know that his death ended in his resurrection.
And so we see that success to God is not measured in human terms.
And so we need to be careful we don’t measure the church by worldly success models.
To many the church looks like it is failing because it is being measured by earthly standards.
The amount of programs being run.
Its acceptance of various ethical issues being pushed by society so it doesn’t seem out of step with modern society.
But none of that matters to God because there is only one mediator between us and God – Jesus Christ.
The wonderful thing about this type of understanding of our salvation is that it frees us completely to not worry about what happens in life.
Whether we succeed or fail in the eyes and standards of the world we know differently.
We know that our life has been written for us and that we live each day knowing a different future to those who have written and rely on their own future.
And what that does it that it allows us to live life for others.
And that’s why Paul urges that prayers and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
So when I see people who are struggling in life I pray for them.
And by doing that we remember that God is at work in all things.
That God is actually in charge and in control of what happens in all of life because God is working hard to achieve his desire to have all people saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.,
When we see life from that perspective – that it is God who takes charge of the future then does it matter if we are a small struggling church or a booming mega church?
Doing the work that God has asked us to do – whether it’s 2 or 3 or 2 or 3 thousand – when we believe it is God and not us who are in control then we see life from a different perspective.
Maybe that sounds unrealistic, especially when the church feels so much smaller, so much more powerless today.
Regardless of how unrealistic it might seem Christians are vital for today’s society for our prayers.
Not just the rulers deserve our prayers, but everyone does.
Why are our prayers vital?
Because God desires that every single person will be saved and so we pray for them.
No one is worthless, no one is a failure, no one is beyond God’s love or the reach of God’s mercy.
It isn’t my God against your God, but our one God who loves everyone.
Paul didn’t think or worry about the mammoth task before him including opposition that the people he was witnessing to were not worth it.
Paul himself had to make the case over and over that his mission to the Gentiles was legitimate and ordained by God, in spite of opposition and condemnation by those who felt God was just for the people of Israel.
The hope of God that all will be saved is supported with the hope that all will “come to the knowledge of the truth,” that is, the truth of the gospel. – that there is only one mediator between us and God – Jesus Christ.
And our challenge is that there is growing resistance against Christianity not only by unbelievers but by so many people today who say they are “spiritual, but not religious” and thereby reject Jesus as the only way to salvation.
And so they are seeking a path to God and to salvation without Jesus.
But, as Paul said, there is only one mediator between God and humanity – Jesus Christ.
The letter by Paul provides an important reminder that there is one God and that God loves every single person and doesn’t want to lose a single one as we heard in last week’s reading about lost coins and sheep and, in every case, pray always for people to come to know Jesus as their Saviour, who is looking for them.
So we are to pray not just for ourselves and our own families and friends but for all of God’s creation to come to a knowledge of the truth.
And Jesus is the way, the truth and life and we come to the father through him.