The effort and perseverance required to win the Stanley Cup is similar, on a smaller scale, to the effort and perseverance that God requires of us all in our Christian walk. In fact, athletic metaphors are used frequently throughout the Bible in order to demonstrate how to live the Christian life.
The Journey is Not Easy
Similarly to playing sports, living the Christian life is not easy.It is a common misconception among people that once you become a Christian, God will solve all of your problems. However, the Bible tells us in several passages that this is simply not true. 1 Peter 4:12-13 tells us not to be surprised when we go through trials as Christians:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed
Instead, Paul tells us in this passage to rejoice in our sufferings, because they are like the sufferings of Christ and will glorify God. The Bible promises us that the experience of seeing God’s glory revealed will far surpass any earthly struggle.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” -Romans 8:18
The Results are Worth the Struggles
Ask anyone on the Blackhawks who won the Stanley Cup last year if it was worth the long hours of practice, injuries, and games and I assure you that they will say it was. Paul is a perfect example of someone who testified that proclaiming the gospel of Christ was worth every stoning, beating, and unkind word he suffered.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” – Colossians 1:24
Just like the work the Blackhawks put into their game helps them to become better hockey players, facing our sufferings with joy like Paul did helps us become godlier Christians.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4
The Reward For Perseverance
The Blackhawks faithfully attend practices and games because they know that their reward is worth the time. In the same way, Paul was able to persevere and stand firm in his faith in the midst of intense suffering because he understood that his reward was great.
Paul knew that God promised him the crown of life, a reward that God promises to each of us who are faithful servants of His word.
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” – Revelation 2:10
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9
How to Persevere
Knowing the reward that is promised to those who suffer for Christ encourages us to persevere in our faith. The Bible gives a handful of practical ways that we can remain steadfast in our faith during our time on Earth.
1. Turn from your sin and toward Jesus
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3
2. Put on the full armor of God in order to stand up against the schemes of the devil
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:11
3. Rest in the Lord
Wearing Christians down is one of the chief ways that Satan attempts to harm them. When we neglect to rest in the Lord, it is easy for us to become lazy in our faith. Fight this attack by taking time to be in God’s Word and in communion with him. These practices will help you to rely on his strength for perseverance and not your own.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
4. Get involved in your local church
The Bible makes it clear that living the Christian life is a community project. In order to persevere in the faith, we need to encourage and discipline one another.
Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have shared in Christ, if we hold our first confidence firm to the end. – Hebrews 3:12-14
5. Study the life and ministry of Jesus
Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus is our chief example for living the Christian life. Jesus persevered despite intense suffering and persecution. His death on the cross was the ultimate display of God’s glory. Read through the gospels and notice the ways in which Jesus continued in his obedience to the Father till the end.
As we pray for perseverance in our Christian walks, let us remember our purpose and our future reward (one that far surpasses the Stanley Cup). May we be able to echo the words Paul said at the end of his life:
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8