In sports, all kinds of things can test you. You can be tested by the intellectual challenge of a game that requires a significant amount of memorization and study (like football). You can be tested physically by the wear and tear of a sport that has an extraordinarily long season (like baseball), and you can be tested emotionally by disappointment in your performance, the performance of teammates, or even the attitudes of fans. This emotional testing, I think, is especially acute this time of year for football teams that have not lived up to the pre-season hype they received. Whether due to bad injuries, bad breaks, bad decisions, or bad performances, the disappointment and frustration of not achieving what you had hoped or expected can produce a real test—and one that, if taken seriously, forces an athlete to look deep inside to see what they may have contributed to that season of shortcoming. As fun as sports can be, they can also be painful—and the emotional pain is often felt when we don’t measure up to what we or others thought we might be.
As followers of Christ, we also find ourselves being tested, but our most significant tests come when our faith is put on the firing lines. Sometimes our faith is tested by life experiences that we felt were unthinkable—yet they visit us in our lives and relationships with significant pain attached. Sometimes we find our faith being tested by our own personal struggles with doubt and disillusionment when life turns out differently than we expected or desired. Sometimes our faith is tested because we don’t understand what God is doing—sometimes even causing us to question God Himself.
None of these experiences are pleasant, and none can be minimized as unimportant or trivial. Rather, these are the things that most often end up defining us, for these challenges and tests do not occur in a vacuum. Nor do they occur without purpose. In fact, Scripture tells us that even life’s toughest tests can be used by our heavenly Father to accomplish good things in us.
What good things can come out of seasons of testing? At least two come to mind:
- To purify our hearts: “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
- To bring us patience: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).
The seasons of testing we face may feel like body-blows to our faith, but take heart. Our God can bring good from them, and He will help us through them. As Paul wrote:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain