As you read this I am hoping that we will either be looking forward to celebrating England winning the Euro 2020 Championships and our first competitive competition since 1966 or we will have already done it! I use the word ‘hoping’ as at the time of writing, we have yet to play Denmark in the Semi Final so this might be yet another footballing false dawn. One of the inspiring parts of the Euro 2020 coverage is that it has shown again that one of the few things that bring us as a nation together is representative sport – over 80% of people watching any TV recently have been watching the England games.
During the recent Euro 2020 Quarter Final against the Ukraine, BBC Host Gary Lineker was getting worried that England were doing too well, and he summed up his feelings by saying: “It’s the hope that kills you”. For those not familiar with this football saying, it really means that as a fan you can get very close to success – winning a league title, avoiding relegation or in this case winning a major tournament, but quite often you get ‘pipped at the post’ or lose in the final- and that hope of achieving something is the killer.
In a lot of ways this sums up the British (and especially the English) national character – if you ask say, an American or an Australian how they are feeling and the chances are they will say something like “I’m feeling good”, “Things are good” or just “Awesome!”. Ask a Brit that and you will get someone saying “Not too bad” or “Could be worse” . We might call it ‘British understatement’ but in truth I think we tend to expect the worst and frankly we are not good when things go really well- for that go across the Atlantic. We tend to be at our best in a crisis when our backs are against the wall – think of Dunkirk, or The Blitz, or 1970s Power Cuts or maybe even the Pandemic, which often saw us excel in helping out our friends or neighbours.
As Christians though we flip that attitude on its head- because it is the Hope that not kills us but rather the opposite – it inspires and drives us on in our faith -St Paul talks about Hope as something that “…does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). To me, that means the promise that God has made to us is because He loves and cares for us, and we sense that through the Holy Spirit which we carry within our souls. That Hope is certain – for instance we can never be sure England as a football team will win anything substantial – but we are assured of our salvation through Jesus’ promise:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement but has passed from death to life (John 5:24)
That promise is our rock and something we are assured about, and we want to others to hear that Good News so they too can know Jesus and his salvation- but a England Euro 2020 Championship win would also be ‘not bad’!