The Luckiest Man

                                                                                            Via MLB

                                                                                            Via MLB

James 1 says we are to be happy in bad times. Actually it says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials," (James 1:2). How in the world is that possible? 75 years ago yesterday, Lou Gehrig stepped to the microphone in Yankee Stadium and gave his famous speech. A man who was afflicted with a fatal disease, announcing his retirement from the game he loved, said he was the "luckiest man on the face of the planet." How can we do that? How is it even possible to have joy in trials? Gehrig's speech offers 3 ways we can...

1. Don't Make It Worse. Gehrig said folks had been "reading about the bad break I got." A bad break? This is a disease that greatly affected him his previous few seasons, had caused him to retire prematurely, and would eventually take his life at only 41. A bad break? Sometimes we dwell on a problem and make it worse. Gehrig was not using worldly wisdom, and neither should we. In the grand scheme of things, what difference do "things" make? His focus was not on his problem. Instead he was able to...

2. Appreciate Little Things. Gehrig said that for 17 years he had, "never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans." Kindness and encouragement are the little things that even professional baseball players cannot buy. Yet, those "little things" are so important in our lives. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we do not have because of a particular problem, that we fail to recognize what we do. Things like love and friendship mean so much. Which is why he also was able to...

3. Focus On Others. It is so easy for us to wallow in self-pity through difficulties. It is not only not healthy, it is unproductive. It helps when we can focus on others. Those who serve others are generally the happiest people. Those who appreciate their relationships always consider themselves the most blessed. So, Gehrig talked about his teammates, manager, opponents, family, and wife. All of which he considered blessings greater than the trial he was enduring. We would do well to do the same.

In truth, James is not telling us to be happy because we have a trial. "Consider" is from the same word often translated as "leader." "Encounter" is the same word translated "fell" in the parable of the Good Samaritan when the man who "fell" among thieves (Lk. 10:30). It is the same word translated "strike" when the ship struck the reef in Acts 27:41. We no more want to go through the trial than the ship wants to hit the rock or the man wanted to be robbed and beaten. Trials, though, are real. What we must do is lead our mind to consider the trial in joy: not because of the trial, but because of the end results of endurance and faith it can have on us (James 1:2-4). When we "lead" our mind to not make the problem worse, to appreciate little things, and to focus on others, we will be able to see the trial in the proper perspective. Then we, as Christians, can certainly echo Lou Gehrig's closing line, "So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for."