Opening my Guardian app I could scarcely believe my eyes: 33 for 7. Soon, very soon, Australia were all out for 60.
Some great tweets: If you want to know what it feels like to be an Australian Batsman, find a large field, walk to the middle, Stop, then walk back.
But this is the same Aussie team who just three weeks ago won the second test after declaring their first innings at 566 for 8. Why the collapse?
Essentially, one word: Confidence. Or more precisely, lack of.
In sport confidence is everything. “With confidence, you have won before you have started,” observed West Indian Marcus Garvey.
And here, of course, sports mirrors life. Confidence, the belief that you can do it, is everything. We all know this as we walk out to face our equivalent of Stuart Broad.
But if we walk out as Christians, our confidence has a different basis, it’s a confidence in God – and this makes all the difference.
For it’s not what I can do but what God can do through me. So Martin Luther, who basically finished off the Middle Ages, could declare: “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
So Peter and John get themselves arrested for healing a crippled beggar. But when hauled before the Jewish Sanhedrin, they refused to be intimidated. The knew that they were standing there because of Jesus. And that’s all they needed.
Luke tells us how these powerful leaders “couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education.” (Acts 4:13f the Message translation)
And their secret? “They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed!—what could they say against that?”
That’s why we need to know and follow God’s guidance, wherever it may lead. Sometimes it may be obvious; other times we need to check out with dispassionate friends, those who know us well and who have no personal stake in the outcome. The key, as ever, is our resolve to obey God
And if we find ourselves walking to the crease at Trent Bridge, knowing that God has sent us out makes all the difference.
So Pope John Paul II reflects on his experience of God’s faithfulness “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
And such confidence feeds of itself. We learn to rely on God keeping his word.
“Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now.”
But human beings as we are, we can so easily start taking the credit for ourselves.
So the apostle Paul gives an important qualification in 1 Corinthians 10:11f: “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless.”
His conclusion: “Cultivate God-confidence.”