Thanksgiving, Heinz Field and Training Camp
Ask anyone what they are thankful for and you're likely to get a common list called "basics of life." Family, food, shelter, job, health, football, popcorn. Okay, so the last two might not be high on everyone's list, but this is my article, alright? Now where were we? Oh, yeah.
So what would be on your list? Those listed are things we should be thankful for. Absolutely. But let's drill a little deeper to things that you can't touch, taste or feel. Friendships (deeper than family because you can have family without friendship. Just ask anyone who has one.) Air – don't quickly think about, but where would we be without it? Time – can't touch it but to have "time" to pause in the busyness of life, ahhhh. Love. Thoughts. Sleep. What else?
Let's keep drilling. C'mon, what are you after here, Herb?
I'll bet there's one you didn't come up with. Times of trouble. Yep, read it again. Not a misprint. Now before you click away thinking I've lost my ever lovin' mind, stay with me.
The Bible says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Now you might be thinking God has lost His ever lovin' mind. I would agree if you only read it on the surface. Dig deeper and we see God is not telling us to be thankful for pain. Those are the people hauled off in trucks by men in white uniforms after they dress you in a shirt with really, really long sleeves. No, God is saying to be thankful, to count it sheer joy for the opportunity for our faith to develop to strength, to maturity, to completeness.
Imagine, (since football goes with Thanksgiving) you are an excellent college football player, but come April no team drafts you. Through my connections, I get you a tryout with the Steelers (we're imagining here, okay?). They give you a workout at their Southside facilities and like what they see. On a suffocating day in July you find yourself unloading your personal items into a dorm room at St. Francis College to participate in the Steelers training camp. For the next five weeks you are going to endure the most grueling exercises, drills, beatings, and testings of your life. It's inhumane. Are you whining?
Keep imagining - how do you feel as you walk into that dorm room? Something like, "Whoah! This is the most incredible OPPORTUNITY of my life! I can't believe I'm here. I can't wait to prove myself and get myself mature and complete (Bible words) as a player." Yet you are heading into "trials of many kinds." (More Bible words) Why are you "rejoicing"? Because you know that "persevering" through these you will get better, stronger, more knowledgeable, ready to accomplish your dream.
Perspective. The same "trial" that can cause one person to complain causes another to "rejoice." Why? Because one sees it as opportunity, the other as a problem.
You have a Heavenly Coach who wants to help you take your faith to the next level, but He knows the only way to do it is through spiritual training camp. Our responsibilities are to first rejoice at the opportunity, then do what He tells us to do.
Back to our imagination. It is now September. Instead of a practice jersey, you're wearing the proud uniform of the black and gold. Instead of a practice field, you are standing in the tunnel at Heinz Field. Instead of doubting yourself, you are confident because you are fit physically and prepared mentally to play in the big time. You are about to get beat black and blue. Are you complaining? No way! This is another opportunity and it is yours because you faced the "trials of many kinds ," you "persevered" and you are now "complete and mature."
Life is full of big games that we can only be ready for if we "rejoice whenever we face trials of many kinds", persevere and grow to spiritual maturity. You don't get that without the spiritual training camp. Not many of us will intentionally go through trials, so our Heavenly Coach must arrange them for us.
Those who whine believe He is hurting us, forgetting us or not loving us. Those who rejoice know He is doing what is best for us, giving us an OPPORTUNITY. Which are you? Which will you be?
NOW, what are you going to be thankful for? Trials/ training camp. Yeah. Perspective.