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
I can remember growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania a week or so after the Thanksgiving Day celebrations, usually one of my brothers would recruit me into helping with the yearly Christmas decorating. Some years, with the snow on the ground, we would bundle up and tramp outside to begin putting up the Christmas lights. At first I looked forward to it, but after a while out there in the cold and snow, I can honestly say I didn’t care much for putting up Christmas lights and decorations. The process always took forever, robbing me of my well-deserved break from school. To make matters worse, my father had invested in this wonderful display of Christmas Elves which were straddling this huge Happy Holidays sign that we would have to hang across the bottom of our driveway in full view of all the townspeople to see. Guess who had to climb up the tree and attach the rope so the sign could be pulled into position, you guessed it…me. I wasn’t too fond of heights but that was no excuse for my brothers.
I can still hear the words, “Quit being a wimp and get your butt up there tie off that rope!” I’m sure they used much more colorful language than that, but you get the idea. Then we had to put up all these stands of lights, not the new LED ones we have today. These were the old school bulbs that usually would burst when they clamored against each other, which didn’t make the process any easier. After several hours in the cold Pennsylvania winter weather hanging lights and signs and whatever else was needed, the time came. Time to throw the switch.
I do remember the satisfaction of flipping the switch and watching all the lights and signs come to life with an incredible glow that would usually begin to melt the snow around each of the brightly lit bulbs. I have to admit, I did like, and still do today, the results of seeing all those decorations bring life to what would usually have been just another dark night.
It’s funny how our Christian walk can mirror the experience of setting up holiday decorations. At times it can be difficult, and we can resent what we believe we’re being denied, but take a look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Life offers us plenty of easy roads, and when it comes to living out the Christian life, these paths can be especially tempting. The world will tell us to go with the flow of the current of culture, to follow the past of least resistance, but God calls us to do differently. Christians are meant to reflect Christ’s glory on Earth, and this cannot be done without hard work, sacrifice, and grace. So whether you serve God through ministry, or simply through your everyday life, this Christmas remember to live in a way deserving of the prize.