Growing up in middle and high school, I had the privilege to play basketball for my school. Every season began the same. As long as you played in the past, you knew what to do. Bring your running shoes, not your basketball shoes, and get ready to run. The first 4 weeks of practice were the most difficult we would have. Sure, it was basketball practice, but no basketball was involved. There were stations and constant running for two hours each day. What was the point of our running? To prepare us.
We ran each day for the first few weeks of practice so that when we were in the 4th quarter of a close game we would be confident that we could overcome the hurdle set before us. All we had to worry about was playing the game, and we had already proven to ourselves as a team that we could outwork anyone else on the floor.
Our coach didn’t make us run because he wanted us to quit or didn’t like us. No, our coach made us run to prepare us for what was ahead. So that we would be ready for those obstacles and boldly face the challenges that lie ahead. Through this process, we learned to encourage one another as a team because we had all been through tough times together.
Our God does to His children exactly what my basketball coach did for his team. God gives us discipline; he pushes us so that we can stand boldly in the Hope of the Gospel as challenges come our way.
James 1:2-4 tells us to count it all joys as we face trials. We face these trials to produce faith and steadfastness. When we go through trials and suffering temporarily, they are ultimately for our good. While they are challenging, they help make us better. As we suffer for the sake of Christ, we suffer so that we may become more like Christ.
Ten years after my last basketball season, I still regret that I stopped playing. As our coach came and asked each player if he was ready to start practice, those 4 long grueling weeks of practice, I informed him I wasn’t playing. I wanted to play basketball, but I didn’t want to run. I let my fear of present pain keep me from the joys the game would bring me.
We often miss out on the joys of following Christ because we fear where stepping out in faith will lead. Be encouraged today, “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12) We will see no greater love than the one that pushes us to rid ourselves of sin and constantly pursue what is ultimately better for us.