As we pass beneath the rod,
That the sunshine and the shadow
Serve alike the will of God. - Anonymous
Whether we like it or not life is sprinkled with hard times. There is no getting around it. In fact the Bible promises us that we will have hard times.
Jesus is quoted in John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
I recently read a story about Casey Seymour, a successful soccer player and coach. He always has his team run a 10 x 100 drill at the end of practice. Before the men can leave the field they must run at full speed - with minimal rest - 100 yards ten times. If they dont beat a prescribed time they have to do it again. The men hate it until the day of the game. Each game they find that they can play at full capacity for the entire match. Their effort has been rewarded with a championship!
We are all playing the game of life, running the gamut – dodging balls, sidestepping boulders, having to learn offensive and defensive strategies. And one thing remains the same.... the injustices of life – the unfair turnabouts will come, question is how will they affect us? Will life's problems, tragedies and injustices rob us of life, joy and love, or will we utilize those seasons and turn them into strength and endurance training?
During his time as a missionary to the Gentiles, Paul submitted to the instructions and drills of God amid great hardship and suffering. Paul was no stranger to suffering. He endured beatings with whips and rocks; he was lost at sea; he was shipwrecked three times and had to learn to survive; he labored and toiled for a days food; he was transient – never putting down roots; he spent time cold, naked and hungry and was falsely imprisoned.
But Paul set the bar for us. Though he endured these unfair, unjust hardships he never allowed any of them to embitter him. Paul endured and thrived. Is it even possible? Yes! And he showed us how....by keeping our eyes fastened upon the person of Jesus Christ!
You may say “Easy for you to say Dori. You dont know my life. You dont know what I've been through and suffered.” You are right. I do not. But I have experienced a training ground of my own.
While I am no Paul I have a resume of my own – suffering the years' long consequences of someone else's choices (talk about unfair!), losing your home, financial devastation, a marriage re-written by my husband's injuries due to a disabling accident 8 years ago; being homeless, selling your belongings to survive, moving 3 states away from your family because that is where God led you to go; finding my mother dead and enduring a loved one's battle with addiction – all these are but a few of the things I've encountered in the last 8 years including the death of my father.
During this last decade my life was so disassembled. Whether I knew it or not at the time - every thing, person, value and belief was tested and or removed in this refiners fire - especially my faith in and knowledge of Christ. The one thought that ocurred over and over was “how do people survive these tragedies, these storms – without God?”
You see Christ was my anchor in these times. I clung to him. With each new storm my voice grew louder and those storms became HIS proving grounds. I witnessed firsthand the power of his ability and miracles. I chose Christ – to cling to Him and to believe in Him, come what may.
Looking back I know that I had every reason and every right to choose differently. For all I witnessed and for all the details I alone know I could have chosen to hate various individuals especially the man who attacked my husband and to be bitter at the disability system for how it ravaged our lives and my husbands body. I could have allowed my heart to be overwhelmed with the desire to get even. I could have easily worn the clothes of a victim of someone else's bad judgement – the victim of “the powers that be”. Churches, pastors, believers in Christ, have let me down sorely. I could be angry at the mortgage companies that would not help us, heartbroken over the one who broke promises, the list goes on.
What would I have gained if I had blindly taken the well earned “right” to be this way? What would it have profited me in life had I chosen to allow the troubles to win? Yet so many do succumb as they blindly demand their rights to suffer on, which only leaves a swath of debris in lives and hearts that are reminscent of paths of destruction left by tornado's and hurricanes. May I say the choice is ours? We can either allow life's troubles to destroy us, or we can turn our tough seasons into training camps.
The apostle Paul often used metaphors of training and competition in his letters to the church. Using his words we can find important training principles:
Galatians 5:7 says “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?”
Life was good. You were running (living) well. Then trouble happened. Who or what interrupted your life, your stride – to trip you up? No. Go back to what your training (what the word of God tells you to do and apply it.). Guard your heart and your mind against unholy thinking and reaction. Find your stride again.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us throw off everything that hinders and every sin that entangles us. And let us run - with perseverance - the race marked out for us.”
In guarding your heart and mind be aware of putting on the coat of “right” --- for it will bleed through your chest to your very heart. Throw off that coat – that “I have a right to feel this way” feeling, for it will only grow in length and weight and hinder your stride, tripping you as you run. Do not agree to become weighed down by things that will hinder your race.
“Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last – but WE do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly. I do not fight like a boxer beating the air; No. I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Recognize that life is a training ground. There is a war being waged for your soul. Our enemy, satan, intends to rob you of your faith in Jesus Christ in an attempt to de-robe Christ and de-stroy the truth of God's power and ability. Satan desires to leave you de-feated and hopeless. Decide and determine to deactivate that power. Land the deathblow.
Here are your training instructions as set forth by Paul –
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up your shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all of the Lord's people.” Ephesians 6:10-15
I challenge you to lace up your running shoes. Let's run.