With NFL training camps underway, some of the best athletes in the USA are being tested in every area of their lives. When we think of training camps, we usually think (appropriately) of the physical tests athletes will endure. Lifting weights, conditioning exercises, grueling drills, hours and hours in the hot summer sun. All those create a kind of physical testing that most of us will never experience. But it is more than their physicality that is being tested—their character is being tested as well. For some, the physical tests of training camp will have much more to say about their strength of character than it will about the strength of their bodies. Why? Because seasons of severe testing push us at the depths of our beings, either making or breaking us. Some of the players at NFL camps this summer are going to learn lessons of character by the hardships of training camps, and others will buckle under the weight of the challenges and quit, robbing themselves of the opportunity to grow in character through the difficult experiences that seek to stretch them.
This operates in all areas of life, which is why Paul told the Roman believers of the first century:
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
Notice the progression here: trials and tribulations produce endurance and endurance produces character. The implication is clear—without legitimate trials and tests in our lives, character will never be deeply formed in our lives. James agreed, writing:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
In both cases, there is an unquestioned link between trials and character development. The question is, Will we allow those lessons of struggle and endurance to build character in us or will we shrink from them, seeking an easier path through life? We make that choice every single day of our lives.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain