By Mike McKinney

“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watchin’ us all with the eye of the tiger.”

Eye of the tiger: tenacious, unyielding, deadly, strong.

Average 2018 Christian: unchallenged, lazy, slow, selfish.

There are two forces in my life that fight for my attention and for my strength: God and Satan. Both of these individuals have the eye of the tiger. Both of these individuals are not to be taken lightly. I have made the mistake of not taking either seriously. What was left was a heaping pile of broken pride and suffering.

Though both of these characters are strong and deadly in force, the biggest difference in their actions is their motives. Satan breaks us down to keep us down, God breaks us down to build us up. All this to ask the question, do your sufferings push you down and keep you down? Or do you take advantage of your trials so that you become a better person?

Let me give an example of my own life. I am a manager at Chipotle. It’s an amazing place, as you probably already know. The reason why it’s such a marvelous place to get food is because of all the hard work that the employees put in.

As a leader of said amazing employees, I am intimately aware of how hard it is for the team to fulfill our duties to provide an excellent guest experience. Many days are full of sweat, stress, and sailor talk. (Not me though, I have an immaculate heart and have never cursed in my life. Not even when I stub my toe, develop road rage, and have a Rebecca Black song stuck in my head, all in the same day).

Through all the agony of prepping pounds and pounds of food, working with teammates that we don’t always get along with, and cleaning up after random people’s messes, we usually just give up, get angry, and quit on the spot.

Just kidding.

Stress. Anxiety. Depression. Suffering.

We don’t ask “why do we have to suffer?” Instead, let us ask, “what is the purpose of suffering?” Paul the Apostle explains to us that “we glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 NIV.

Pop Quiz: The purpose of suffering is to:
A. Strengthen Us
B. Shape our character
C. Build our foundation on God’s Love
D. Ruin us and leave us for dead

If you picked letter D at all, please re-read the previous scripture…and talk to a pastor or mentor because you may need some help understanding God’s will for your life.

If you picked any combination of A, B, or C: GREAT JOB! You’ll never have to suffer again because you have clearly reached the top, nay, the pinnacle of Christian living.
Just kidding…but you’ll at least be ready when adversity strikes. So you’ve got that going for you, which is nice.

Back to Romans.

So we can see that Paul is keenly aware of what suffering does for us, for not only is he a smart man, but he has endured suffering throughout his life. In 2 Corinthians, we find a list of various trials and sufferings that Paul had to face during his ministry, yet he never gave up.

He relied on God’s love from the very start. He allowed his trials to shape his character. He became stronger and took on the next trial. He faced prison time, floggings, beatings, stonings, THREE SHIPWRECKS, spent a full 24 hour period floating in the sea, exhaustion, muggings, sleeplessness, hunger, exposure to elements. In addition, he had to face enemies countless times, most of which were once his closest friends!

He never gave up. He never quit. He had the eye of the tiger.

For he chose to “count it pure joy while facing trials of many kinds, for the testing of faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 NIV. He knew that “after suffering a little while, the God of all grace…will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 ESV.

How are you suffering? How are you developing perseverance, character, and hope?

If you have never suffered, you have never grown. If you are not growing, you are wasting your time. Either you are not fully aware of your trials, or you have chosen an easy path in life. Whatever it is, you have the opportunity to give your life fully to Christ, whether in trial or not, to allow Him to shape you and your destinies. We must do so, for if it is not Christ that is leading our lives, it is either our own plan or the Enemy’s.

Will we allow Christ to take our church to the next level? Will we allow our God to take hold of our lives and transform it, even though suffering will inevitably come upon us?

Will we lay down our pride so that we can declare that we want this earth “as it is in heaven?”

Will we continue to ignore our sufferings and choose comfort instead? Or will we embrace our sufferings as Paul did?

Will we complain like spoiled children as our trials surface? Or will we instead count our sufferings as pure joy, knowing the benefits of our trials?

We must decide.

Will we play the victim one more day? One more moment?

Or do you choose to have the eye of the tiger?