It was the last semester of my senior year in high school and I needed a few more credits added to my transcript to fulfill my graduation requirements. So, I did what most people do in the same situation: sign up for a Physical Education class. Easy, right? No homework. No tests. Well, the “no homework” and “no tests” panned out for me. But the “easy” certainly did not! If I had read the course title more closely, I would have noticed that it said “Fitness P.E. 301 (a.k.a. “Advanced Fitness”). “Fitness” in this course meant one and two-mile runs, aerobics, and, gem of all gems, weight lifting. Even as a young child, I never had the endurance for running long stretches (I was a sprinter), so the mile runs about killed me (I had the worst times in the whole class). And I didn’t do much better with aerobics. Surprisingly, weight lifting proved to be my “best event” in my not-so-easy P.E. course.
For the weight lifting portion of the class, students enrolled in the course were asked to participate in the Lift-A-Thon, a fundraiser which raised money for the Physical Education program. Students asked people to sponsor them so many cents (or dollars if they’re really generous!) per pound that they bench press. In my case, I set my goal at 150 pounds. To my surprise, I actually benched pressed the 150 pounds (though I’m pretty certain that I only managed 1 or 2 lifts at the most). And an even greater surprise was the “Best Lift” trophy I won. Without realizing it, I raised the most money for my section of Advance Fitness and, hence, earned myself a trophy.
While most people earning a trophy take great pride in their accomplishment, I felt awkward carrying my trophy home that day. I wasn’t proud or enthusiastic about my accomplishment because I really didn’t care about the class, and I reluctantly participated in the Lift-A-Thon more out of obligation than desire. Needless to say, putting my trophy on display at home for others to see was not a high priority; it merely collected dust for a few years before I finally tossed it in the trash.
Unlike my I-don’t-care attitude about my trophy, God puts a lot of care and effort into making us trophies of His grace. What does it mean to be a trophy of God’s grace?
We all know from personal experience that our dark and painful trials are nothing we would consider “full of grace.” Quite the contrary. In our times of pain and suffering — in our darkest and most agonizing trials when it takes every ounce of strength to just wake up every morning — we cannot see or comprehend any grace that exists or any good that could possibly emerge from times such as these. Yet behind the scenes of our broken and tattered life, hidden from our finite, pain-seared vision, God’s grace is waiting to emerge in all its magnificence and glory. We don’t see it, and we often don’t feel it; but in the midst of our trials and suffering God is doing a great work of grace in and through us.
God wants to put us on display as a trophy of His grace. How so? As we weather the storms of life, God gets the glory when others see that we have humbly surrendered our sin and brokenness at the cross and emerged a new creation in Christ; that we have fought the good fight of faith; that we have not depended on our own strength but have trusted in the strength and power of God; that we have persevered in prayer and not given up hope; that no matter what is happening around us, we stand boldly on the Word of God and His promises. When we have weathered the storms of life in this way, others will look at our lives and see the manifestation and magnificence of God’s grace.
Whatever trials and sufferings we face in life, we do not despair because God is transforming us into a grace-filled trophy — a prized possession that He is proud to call His own and put on display for all to see!
In God’s divine love,