3,4 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”
Romans 5:3,4 (NASB)
Athlete, your experience of persevering in sports gives you an advantage in your walk with God. You know the result of pushing through an injury, demotion or setback. You know how much stronger you are after struggling through threatening difficulties.
Persevering through trials as you follow Christ produces the same effects: character, strength, hope, perspective.
An NFL player suffered season-ending injuries four straight years. The first year he asked with fear, “Why did this happen?” Each year he battled through months of painful, tedious rehab.
I stopped by the hospital after his season-ending surgery in the fourth year. A smile emerged from his disappointment as he said, “I guess I know what God is up to.” He had experienced the gains of perseverance.
The year before Paul wrote his words on perseverance to the Roman believers, he wrote a letter to the believers in Corinth where he described his difficulties. He had been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and whipped five different times within a lash of his death.
He lived in danger of the elements, of thieves, of his enemies and various travel catastrophes. He was often without sleep, food, water and warm clothing. Get this – he called it all “light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18; 11:23-29).
The apostle Paul knew perseverance. Nothing but death stopped him. Paul’s difficulties hung around for an extended period of time, time in which God proved Himself and transformed his character. Through it all, his perseverance produced hope rather than despair.
One thing I have observed after spending decades in NFL, NBA and MLB locker rooms – the athletes and their spouses who persevered through difficult trials in the game left the game far stronger people than those who did not have to persevere through difficulty. IT SHAPED THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
Athlete, you know perseverance. Take it to your walk with God! Expect it to transform your life.