Since I was thirteen years old, I wanted to perfect my athletic skills enough to be a part of the United States field hockey or lacrosse team. Sure enough, in college, I was selected for the U.S.A. Women’s Lacrosse team. My dream came true! What I did not realize was the physical pain I would have to put my body through every weekend to become the strong player my coach knew I could become. I trusted my coach, so I willingly endured despite waking up every Monday morning feeling I could barely walk!
How many times do we pray “Lord, make me more like you,” or “transform me and help me become the person you want me to be.” Though we desire this, we might struggle to accept the road we must travel to get there. The apostles understood that suffering is a part of life for all humanity. But for followers of Christ, it is a means of transformation in our character, and ultimately glory to God. Look at the words of the apostle Paul.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Paul understood that suffering would enable him to grow in character. His priority in life was to become more like Christ (See Philippians 3:10). The apostle James had a similar exhortation. He told us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. Again, he emphasized how difficulties strengthen our faith, develop perseverance, and ultimately enable us to become mature and complete (See James 1:2-4).
These words challenge our entire set of values. What are your highest values in life: comfort, success, freedom, financial security, peace, being loved and loving others? Paul and James challenge us to put the value of becoming mature in Christ above our comfort or personal gain. In fact, Paul considers all his worldly accomplishments of success, education, and reputation to be rubbish compared to knowing the love of Christ and becoming Christ-like (See Philippians 3:7-11).
The saying “No pain, no gain” is a simple phrase, but it often helps me. In my athletic days, I really saw that the more pain I had on Monday mornings (I am not talking about injuries), the stronger player I became. In the same way, the more I walk through trials surrendered to God’s will and asking for His power to endure with rejoicing ─ not complaining ─ the stronger my faith becomes, and the more my character grows in Christlikeness. This results in hopefulness, fulfillment, greater glory to God, and more help to those around me. May God give us the faith to endure and a character to bring honor to Him.
Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, Philippians 3:7-11
By Sue Corl