Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. Image: Stock photo
If you are a tennis fan, the name Mary Pierce might mean something to you. Of course there are many good tennis players around the world, and it’s a sport loved and followed by many. But Mary Pierce is a bit different.
She is a French-American retired tennis professional who played on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour. She has won many titles and reached six Grand Slam singles finals. She won the 2005 Wimbledon mixed doubles championship and has reached three Grand Slam doubles finals. She has won 18 WTA singles titles and 10 WTA doubles titles, including five Tier-1 singles events. She also has twice reached the final of the season-ending WTA Tour Championships, most recently in 2005.
Mary Pierce was named as a member of the French Olympic team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On July 21 that year, she withdrew from the Olympics because of injury. So we are talking of a very talented tennis player who has now retired.
But what makes Mary different is her Christian faith. I read in the War Cry magazine a feature story about her. She started playing tennis at age 10 until her last match in 2006. She has been very successful, but she says the best moment of her life was when she was born again.
“My life was changed from that day, and it’s never been the same. Winning the French Open was an amazing experience – but you can’t compare that to knowing Jesus,” she says.
So Changed That Even the Journalists Noticed
When she accepted Jesus Christ into her life in March 2000, she found her approach to the tennis court was different. Journalists kept asking her what had changed. They thought she had undergone psychological coaching to reduce her anxiety and stress on the court. But it wasn’t that. She says she was radically changed and transformed.
“I had a new reason for what I was doing. I had so much peace in my heart. I basically went on the court and gave 100 per cent and enjoyed what I was doing, and left everything else in the hands of the Lord. I was completely relaxed – I was a different person.”
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What amazing words from someone whose life had changed.
Mary has not played professional tennis since her injury and she now lives on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and is very committed to a local church. She coaches tennis as well.
She grew up in the Catholic Church, and even though she had a basic faith in God, she knew there was still something missing. She also had a difficult relationship with her father. Into adulthood, she searched for meaning in yoga, psychology, and self-help.
She says, “You name it, I was trying it”.
“I was looking for something that was going to heal my hurt from all my pain, wounds, from my past, and my childhood. But nothing really seemed to work. Nothing was a permanent solution.”
She knew she had a definite talent to play professional tennis. One day the US tennis player Linda Wild told her about Jesus Christ. She asked, “do you know who Jesus is? Do you have a personal relationship with Him?”
Mary laughed at first, but soon realised this was important.
She said later, “I was kind of upset. How come I haven’t heard this in 25 years? It was amazing. I knew that what she was telling me was the truth. It spoke to my heart.”
A Heart Transformed
Not long after, Mary repented of her sins and asked Jesus into her heart. She suddenly had no desire to go drinking, to swear, or have different boyfriends. From that moment she had an instant peace and felt God’s love and forgiveness. Today she would tell you she has no burdens.
This is a true story. Maybe this morning you know what it means to be born again. Billy Graham wrote a best seller, How to be Born Again. It means to “turn around”, to start all over again. Why should we bother? Because as the Bible says, “all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).
Do you want to be born again, right now? Do you want a new nature? Do you want to receive the most wonderful gift in the whole universe, the life of Christ Himself? Then simply, but sincerely, pray:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God. I believe that You died for my sins and rose from the grave. I invite You into my heart and receive You right now. Thank You for forgiveness. Thank You for a new life. Help me to be what You want me to be and live Your life through me. Amen.”