James 1:2-3 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.
If you are involved in sports, especially competitive sports, you will almost certainly experience some form of unfair treatment at some point in your athletic career. You may be cut from a team that you most definitely deserved to make. You may be mistreated by a coach, or you may not get the playing time that you deserve. You may get caught in the mire of club politics and not get the coaching support you need and be hindered in your development, or not receive the funding that is made available to others. (Please note I’m speaking of unfair treatment, not abuse. If you are being abused, it will require removing yourself from the situation and getting professional and perhaps law enforcement help).
So, what do you do in situations of mistreatment? Not surprisingly our natural reactions come forward very quickly. For anyone who is a parent and has witnessed their athlete child being treated unfairly, you will know that this is even more difficult than being mistreated yourself, and many of the natural protectionist reactions that arise are rarely very godly. As Christians, when our natural thoughts and reactions come to the surface and they are not consistent with Christ who lives in us, we have a lack of peace. This is an uncomfortable, yet wonderful, alarm that is triggered by the Holy Spirit in us, and we need to take heed.
Firstly as Christians, facing trials should not be a surprise to us; facing trials is a certainty. 1 Peter 4: 12-13 says: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. Jesus came to earth as a man and suffered more unjust treatment than we can even imagine. Secondly, rather than being surprised, we should expect unjust treatment from the world because of who is in the world. 1 John 4: 4-5 says: 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.
How then do we act; how do we react in the face of unjust treatment? James 1 is a great chapter to read. Today’s key verse in James 1:2 tells us that we should actually consider it “pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds. Wow, this certainly is a tough teaching. It is one thing to bear something, but quite another to consider it “pure joy”. But if we understand the scriptures, we understand that the walk of a disciple of Christ is a walk of sanctification. By enduring fiery trials, we are cleansed, we are purified (1 Peter 1:7), and as we are sanctified, we take on the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) in increasing measure. This right understanding should bring us great joy.
James 1:12 goes on to say: 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. May we be followers of Christ who do not give in to the evil desires of our heart, to the natural reactions that come from our fleshly selves, but instead would we allow the Holy Spirit to be evident, and would we allow Jesus Christ to reign in our lives. Whatever our circumstances, God can fight for us – let Him fight on your behalf.