Adversity – Friend or Foe

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Adversity in life can either be a burden or a blessing.  Adversity is a stumbling block or a stepping stone, an obstacle or an opportunity.  Adversity makes some people – it breaks others.

This summer I spoke at a men’s conference entitled “Men of Steel.”  I had the chance to be on the program and spend time with Sid Bream, one of the most famous and favorite Sid Bream and JEplayers for the Atlanta Braves.  He is an amazing person!  He will always be remembered as scoring the winning run in the 1992 playoffs with Pittsburgh.  It is considered one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

The next year the Atlanta Braves started to slump.  They brought in a new first baseman, Fred McGriff.  He ignited the team.  McGriff took Sid Bream’s place.  He became the toast of the town, and Sid Bream dropped to a supporting role.  But Bream’s attitude was tremendous.  He supported the team and gave extra effort and was ready to be used however the team needed him.  He didn’t complain or find fault.  He was a great example of maturity and discipline.  He handled the adversity of going from “Hero to Zero” – from the top to a supporting role, and he attributes that to his strong faith.  Today he is a powerful Christian speaker.  Adversity was his friend – not his foe.

Another great baseball story of adversity is Dave Dravecky.  He was the all-star pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.  His career was interrupted when he had surgery for cancer on his pitching arm.  You may have been watching TV that night when he was pitching and was making a come-back.  All of a sudden his arm went limp.  On June 18, 1991, he had his left arm and shoulder amputated to remove the cancer.

I went to hear Dave Dravecky speak at the Acadome in Montgomery.  A friend of mine collects baseball memorabilia.  I asked him if he had anything from Dave Dravecky.  He draveckyopened up his jacket and showed me the actual baseball jersey that Dravecky wore when he threw his last pitch.  I commented that is priceless! He told me, “John Ed, it’s going to be more valuable after Dave Dravecky signs it today.

In his book, When You Can’t Come Back, Dravecky wrote, “God built a world that is as mysterious as it is majestic.  I believe God rules over the world, but I don’t believe He gave me cancer.  He allowed it.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t know the purpose of my suffering.  But I do know the results.”

When I compare the Dave Dravecky before cancer and the Dave Dravecky after cancer, there’s no comparison.  He wrote, “I used to be dogmatic and think there was an answer for everything.  Now I realize there are a lot of things that don’t have answers.  I used to think I could put God in a box; now I believe His ways are too big for any box to contain.  I used to depend on myself; now I depend on God.  I used to be preoccupied with my own needs; now I am learning compassion for the needs of others.  I used to view Christ’s death on the cross intellectually; now I view it more emotionally.  Through my own suffering I have become more aware of His suffering, and I love Him more as a result.”  Wow!

Is adversity your friend or your foe?  Paul said, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-5).

Read again these two great examples from baseball.  Apply these lessons and . . .


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