How often do we take a look at adversity as a friend? I have written often of the “no pain, no gain” mentality but nevertheless it is true. Growth and strength come from putting a load on the muscles, or on the psyche.
But have you ever stopped to think about how often we are encouraged by other’s adversity? When we see people giving their all in spite of the pain, it urges us on. When we see others persevere and push forward, we are more willing to push on.
I recently was writing down some of the maxims I coach by. One is a simple reminder that the battle is often won not by the first to get to the rim but instead by the first willing to get to the floor.
Last Thursday night I watched my son’s team play a far superior team in size and athleticism. The high school team they were facing had a front line of 6’7”, 6’8”, and 6’9”. I think there were only two of their players shorter than my son that is around 6’2”.
The biggest kid on my son’s team is 6’3” or 6’4”. He is the reason I am writing this devotion this week. In spite of being undersized, he fought a valiant fight. The team was down by 18 points at the half. But after half-time, when men of lesser character would have folded, my son’s team came out scrapping. During the 3rd quarter they had enough shots fall to feel like they had a shot and had pulled back to within around 10 points. In the 4th quarter they got hot; they got pumped; they pushed on. And eventually they took the lead by as much as 6 points. Although they ended up dropping the decision (81-77) they were “winners” that night.
I know I mentioned the “big” kid on our team. His name is Austin. During that second half surge he had two plays that I believe spurred our team on. Austin is not a great scorer. He is not a great ball handler. But as a soccer goalie he has learned to give of his body. The two plays I mentioned involved Austin full-out diving for the ball; I’m talking body parallel to the floor diving. On the second one his landing area was actually in the wooden bleachers that hammered Austin’s thighs. I watched as his teammates were not only amazed by his effort but also energized and spurred on by his effort. Austin’s actions had said to his team, “This game matters. You, as my teammates matter. I’ll do what it takes to win the battle.”
In our spiritual lives I consistently am amazed by those that can go through incredibly difficult times and still honor the Lord. I think of the great missionaries we read about that were willing to lose their lives for the cause of Christ and how those stories spur us on. I think of the Apostle Paul who endured such incredible struggles once he became a Christian yet had the following conclusion:
Philippians 1: 12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Do you see what happened? The Brethren became more confident; they were encouraged and spurred on; they understood that yes Paul had some discomfort and struggle but it was all worth it.