Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge Batman fan. A fact much bemoaned around my house. I watch the movies (not weird) and the animated features (getting weirder) and the old episodes of the cartoon series (bordering on creepy), but not the campy Adam West series (I have to draw the line somewhere). When I can slip away for a few minutes, and occasionally a few hours, I even have a Batman video game. Say what you will about video games, but after a long day at the hospital, beating up digital henchmen whilst donning the cape and cowl is very satisfying.
One thing that serves me well in my adventures as the pixelated caped crusader, is knowing tips and tricks to get through a mission. There are lots of of strategies and techniques, but there is one golden rule: if you haven’t fought any bad guys, you are probably going in the wrong direction. Whenever I encounter a group of enemies, I know I am closing in on my goal.
Okay, admittedly this is ludicrous so far, but honestly I have a point. Often times when we are trying to seek God and do what He is leading us to do, for some reason we expect every obstacle to be removed. We should expect the exact opposite. James opens his letter with just this advice. He tells us to consider it “pure joy” to endure hardship of all kinds. He goes on to encourage us, promising that if we endure we will receive the crown of Life.
For some reason when I read this in the past, I assumed this meant that if people were mean to me because I was a Christian, it was a badge of honor, and I should be proud that my witness was evident. I think this lies behind the militant way we sometimes demand people say “Merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays”. We feel that it is a hardship if people disagree with us.
I have come to see it differently. The hardships I have encountered in life are rarely bigoted anti-Christian people who demand I renounce my faith; rather it is seemingly unrelenting circumstances that hinder what I am trying to do.
You see, we struggle not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12), so the difficulty we experience is not that of fellow man berating is, but of other origin.
“Wait, are you trying to tell me demons are going to haunt me if I try and follow Jesus?!”
No.… well not exactly.
Spooky haunting and paranormal activity are far too suspicious for these “not flesh and blood” adversaries. I can tell you, however, if you want to test this be my guest. Volunteer to do something earnestly for God. I can assure you, that you will have more flat tires, broken furnaces, fluke health issues and financial hiccups.
These are the things we are to consider “pure joy”. It doesn’t feel very joyful when your daughter has to have emergency surgery halfway through your second year of medical school (personal experience), but that’s just the sort of thing that is common. If the enemy can distract you from your goal, that’s more effective than spooking you out.
When you get a notice from your landlord that they have found lead paint in your house and you have 45 days to vacate (also personal experience) you can feel pretty confident you are moving in the right direction. Celebrate, while you look for a new house, knowing that somewhere in the invisible realm, someone is panicking because of your progress.
Another crucial lesson I picked up while exercising my thumbs pertains to being equipped. Often times, before a new challenge, special equipment will appear. Without it, you are helpless to move forward. Trust me, if you are ever playing video games and there is an item just laying around, pick it up! You’ll need it!
Often times when I speak with believers, especially those who feel that have a particular calling (whether it be ministry or vocation) the feel pressured to have all the answers, or be ready with every skill they imagine they will need. Again, just the opposite may be true. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. Rather than anticipating what might happen, or feeling pressured to be good enough, instead move in the direction you are being lead, and be vigilant for equipping opportunities along the way.
Finally, as in all gaming, saving is important. If you’re reading this, and it all seems silly and far fetched to you; consider accepting salvation. Many I’ve met who have been beaten down by unusual bad luck, are on the verge of surrendering to Christ. Becoming a Christian doesn’t end difficulty, but brings meaning to opposition, and joy to having destiny.