The Olympic Games are so thrilling. The drama played out in sports is so exciting. The life stories of the athletes are awe-inspiring – especially those who come to the games well-trained and highly disciplined, but knowing they will never medal. They are ecstatic just to be at this once every four year gathering of the best of the best.
For several years, I worked at a small organization whose CEO was one of those Olympians. Jim was a decathlete in the 1988 Olympics, setting several national records but not winning a medal. When asked how he trained for the Games, Jim described rigorous morning workouts that left him so physically exhausted he could hardly move. He talked about endless weight room sessions. He recounted how he would punish his body over and over again in order to build his personal endurance, stamina and strength. Jim continually pushed his body to extreme levels, sometimes to the point where he would throw up after practice. Yet, he considered these practices absolutely necessary to compete at this level. His quick answer when asked why was the old adage, “No pain, no gain.”
The same is true for Christians as we seek to attain a Christ-like character. This morning, I begged God to keep me on His path: Don’t let me get blown off course by this world, or worse, because I want to do life my way. Living the unchallenged, pleasure-filled, easy-going life the world tells us is best isn’t going to develop our spiritual and moral muscles. In my life, it’s been the hardships and struggles that have caused me to drop my selfishness and bend my heart towards God’s love, wisdom and grace. During those times Christ walked so closely to me that my character changed. The pain diverted me away from the never-ending tasks keeping me from hearing God’s voice and doing what God prepared for me to do. In those times, I ran to Jesus and laid my burdens at His feet, knowing He Himself would provide the solutions.
Normally, I walk somewhere between darkness and light, questions and answers. But in difficult times, I grasp tightly to Christ. Romans 5: 3-4 states, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope.” When I struggle, my faith grows knowing He will remain faithful. Even in the chaotic times, I remember He holds the victory and that my story ultimately has a happy ending.
So as Christians, we should truly understand, especially where spiritual growth is concerned, there is no gain without pain. Jesus knew this. He suffered greatly while on earth – misunderstood, constantly tested by the religious leaders of the time, all the while pointing his life toward Jerusalem knowing He would die a brutal death there. Yet, He remained obedient to His Father’s will. And if the Son of God suffered to gain, why shouldn’t it be more true for us?
Here’s an uncommon way of approaching what pains you today. Make a list of the struggles currently keeping you up at night. Then consider the character traits that could be developed as you walk through these difficulties with God. Lastly, thank God for loving you enough to allow the circumstances of your life to mold your character so you’ll be more like Jesus.
May we always whisper our doubts to Jesus and lay our burdens at His feet, knowing He Himself is our answer. Remember: No pain, no gain!