Summary: Tomorrow's hope enables me to endure today's hurt.
As many of you know, I officiate high school basketball and volleyball. As a high school official, I am subject to the control of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The AIA determines what qualifications I must meet in order to work, they establish the game/match fees, they establish uniform requirements, they make all my assignments, and they pay my game and match fees among other things.
Over the past couple years, the State of Arizona, and especially Southern Arizona has experienced a drastic reduction in the number of officials who are working in all sports due at least in part to some of the additional requirements and restrictions that the AIA has placed on their officials over the past couple of years. But since I really enjoy working with these student athletes and being an integral part of high school sports I have continued to be an official.
But when I got home last week from vacation and opened a couple of emails from the AIA I got really angry. I won’t go into all the details, but in general, there are two significant issues that came up. First, is the fact that the AIA has not yet paid me for some state tournament matches that I worked over a month and half ago and they are not going to pay our mileage reimbursement for the spring season that began back in February for at least another month because they failed to bill the schools for the correct amount last fall.
The second issue is that the AIA has implemented several new policies that will both decrease the game fees that we’ll be paid beginning in the fall and will increase our expenses for uniforms and equipment.
So when I opened up those emails last week, my immediate reaction was that I was going to do something about it. I got on Google and established a new email that I could use to communicate with other officials and the AIA without revealing my identity and then I sat down to write an email to my fellow officials to urge us all to take some action. But as I got ready to hit the “send” button, I sensed that I needed to stop and cool down for a while before I overreacted.
And when I sat down a read our passage from James for this week and began to study it and prepare for this message I understood why. Will you join me as we turn to James chapter 5 and follow along as I begin reading in verse 7:
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
(James 5:7-12 ESV)
You’ll remember that in the first six verses of this chapter, James addressed the rich people who were associated with the local bodies of Jewish believers who were exploiting the poor within those bodies. And in that passage we learned that:
The way I acquire and use wealth
is a good measure of my spiritual health
As James continues, he now turns to address his brothers and sisters in Christ who were being abused and exploited by the rich.
This is such a relevant passage for all of us because as we live life here on earth we are going to be hurt by other people. Sometimes we suffer because of our faith in Jesus and other times we incur trials and difficulties just because we live in a world that has been stained by sin. And often, just like these believers to whom James is writing, we’re not really in a position to do anything about the hurt itself, but we can control how we respond to the hurt.
Often the biggest hurts in life come from those closest to us:
• A spouse who violates the marriage covenant in spite of our efforts to be the husband or wife that God desires for us to be.