James 1: 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We built a new home on the edge of my in-laws’ property in the countryside. We had left a city with 100,000 people and now the closest “big” town had 1,800. As our youngest son had a real interest and gifting in soccer, one concern we had is where he would play because it was quite a drive to the closest center with a competitive team. Over the winter season playing ice hockey we were surprised to find a number of dads who had played competitive soccer and their son’s were also quite gifted. In the spring I decided to form a U9 team (even though we had no 9 year olds, a handful of 8 year olds, and 80% were 7). Tryouts were quite simple, we kept everyone, including a girl who played goal. I entered them into a competitive division where we played against all the largest centers in the area (each with populations of 100,000+). It wasn’t that I was delusional, I, and my assistant coaches and trainers (including my wife), had a plan. At the beginning of the year I held a meeting with all the parents and kids and set expectations. My speech went something like this: “We are going to lose every game this year; in fact we are going to get destroyed. But if we persevere and don’t give up, next year we’ll still be U9 and we should compete and win half the games. For those around two years from now, all of the pain, all of the frustration of losing will pay off, because I expect we will have a chance to win our entire U9 conference.
I’m no prophet, but the script went nearly as predicted. Our first game was against the center we had moved from and we lost 7-0. Subsequent games were no different losing one after the next. It was a challenge to find the positives each game and encourage the kids. Together with the other coaches and parents we encouraged perseverance. What I didn’t expect, however, is how quickly things began to improve. By the end of the year we were getting closer and on the final game of the first year we played the team where we had lost 7-0, and we tied them 1-1. It was as if we had won the World Cup – kids and parents flying around the field. Year 2 we did a bit better than expected and won more than half our games. In year 3 we were an incredible team. We even entered the largest tournament in the province in Toronto and we made it to the semi-finals. In our own regular season, we played in the championship game, only to lose in penalty kicks. Perseverance had finished its work and we had developed mature soccer players.
Today’s scripture refers to something far more important than soccer or any sport, no matter what level, even elite or professional. James is talking about spiritual battles we must each face as Christians.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Honestly, do you consider it “pure joy” when you face trials? Man, I think I am doing well when I just get by. But if you recognize that there is a purpose to the trials, that these trials are producing a good work in me, then it gives you the will to persevere. All of the growth in my Christian life has come through very difficult trials and for that reason I am joyful for those trials. I am still working on being joyful in the midst of them, but as I see the consistent pattern I am getting better at that too. Take courage if God has brought trials into your life, because you have been chosen by the God of the universe to become mature and complete!