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James 1:2 “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
Coaching peewee football for 7- and 8-year-olds will bring about many life illustrations, if you’re willing to listen long enough. Now in my second season of coaching the peewees, I have a new collection of phrases, comments and meaningful life principles given away at the hands of young football players. Three weeks ago, late into one of our games, it happened — that teaching moment from a little boy to an old coach…
In our league, coaches are allowed to be out on the field while the game is going on, in order to help teach and instruct the players. During a timeout, I walked onto the field among the players with water bottles in hand, to assist one of our other coaches with some football 101 teaching. One of our players began to yell for me…”Coach…coach….hey coach!” I ventured over to see why the young player seemed so urgent. He was staring at the opposing team and while pointing at them and their coaches, the young player asked me, “Might you go over there and ask those coaches to put in smaller players, guys more my size because the ones they have in now are bigger and are really starting to hurt me.”
Wow. That was rich. I hugged him, laughed at his honesty and quickly retold the story to our other coaches. The sincerity in this little guy is probably how most of us feel when facing trials, but we just don’t tell people.
I’m certain many of us have sipped a cup of coffee reflecting on the previous 24 hours, wishing the obstacles, adversities and struggles we were facing would go away or at least be traded in for something ‘easier’ to deal with. I’m also certain many of us wished we could just say the word or place a phone call to trade our life for another life that would be more comfortable — more controllable, less intimidating.
I walked away from the game that day knowing that this story would be teaching me some valuable lessons in the weeks to come. Trials and obstacles are a part of life. Some are greater, some are smaller, but no one is exempt from life suddenly becoming difficult.
In James chapter 1, James doesn’t suggest we remove the difficult days or even ask God to swap them out for less difficult ones. James assumes trials will be part of the life of anyone who follows Christ.
Even though James is addressing early Christians undergoing persecution for their faith, he is also encouraging perseverance through these trials because of the end product: a spiritual maturity and deeper dependence on God.
Whether it be persecution because of your faith, job insecurity, financial stress, wayward children, broken relationships or even dealing with difficult people, we are encouraged to have the right perspective: that God is able to do something in us through our struggles.
The words of James encourage us to keep pressing on in the midst of struggles, believing God is doing something in us and through us during that time. Whether we’re requesting coaches to swap out easier and more approachable opponents or trying to find the strength to forgive one more time — know that God is able. May our prayer be for God not to spare us from adversities, but to help us stand strong, hold tight, put our trust in Him through anything that comes our way as He transforms us through the process.
The Rev. Jay Montgomery is associate pastor/youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Ky.