12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NAS):
Not all are athletic, but all can be athletes. In any sport, perseverance under trial is essential to winning. It’s expending every ounce of energy to obtain the ultimate prize. There are no shortcuts.
There is no more arduous test than the 23-day Tour de France. The prize is to be wearing the yellow jersey when the 2,200 mile course through the Pyrenees and the Alps concludes on the cobbled streets of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. One popular race announcer described the effort required for a rider to scale the tallest peaks along the route as “turning himself inside out.” The athlete will do this to win.
The apostle Paul was certainly a fan of athletic endeavors and often used sports metaphors in his writing, very similar to what James alludes to here. Paul stressed not only efficient effort but following the rules.
27 I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27
The Tour is perhaps better known for its disqualified winners than than those who won “clean.” They were not approved, or found “genuine” after testing, and the crown or wreath in this case was taken from their heads. These men appeared purposeful in there actions. But it is possible to inadvertently step out of the lines. There’s nothing worse than to be disqualified.
You may not be gifted athletically, but you can withstand life’s tests with the perseverance of an athlete. But winning isn’t everything. Winning the right way is, in God’s eyes. That’s where love for, or better, fear of, him comes in.
“Turning oneself inside out” is actually a great metaphor. In every test, expose your vulnerability and need for strength to God, and he’ll provide the impetus and will to keep on going.