Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
When I was still a child living in Illinois, my father drafted me into his yearly Christmas decorating. Every December, with the snow heavy on the ground, the two of us would bundle up and tramp outside to begin putting up the Christmas lights. I hated putting up Christmas lights. The process always took forever, robbing me of my well-deserved break from school. To make matters worse, my father had a fondness for those icicle-styled lights that were supposed to drip down from the rooftop in merry “winter-wonderland” fashion.
Except the high winds always blew the strands of light up into the gutters, so once again we would have to go outside and set them right. It got to the point where I would do anything to avoid putting up Christmas lights. I hid, I threw tantrums, I’d sulk, and eventually my father decided dealing with both me and lights was too much work and set me free. Looking back now, I regret how short-sighted I was. I was so upset at having to do a few hours’ work that I never realized how beautiful our house looked when it was all lit up, or how fulfilling it was to know I had helped my father make it that way.
It’s funny how our Christian walk can mirror the experience of setting up holiday decorations. At times it can be difficult, and we can resent what we believe we’re being denied, but take a look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:
“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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Life offers us plenty of easy roads, and when it comes to living out the Christian life, these paths can be especially tempting. The world will tell us to go with the flow of the current of culture, to follow the past of least resistance, but God calls us to do differently. Christians are meant to reflect Christ’s glory on Earth, and this cannot be done without hard work, sacrifice, and grace. So whether you serve God through ministry, or simply through your everyday life, remember to live in a way deserving of the prize.