November 26, 2015

If you spend much time around the IWU Locker Room, you will often hear the phrase, 'Man I got it good!'  The Wildcat players understand that a grateful attitude can be the great equalizer, as we realize how much we have been given as we focus on God's blessings. 

Ethan Whaley is in his ninth year with IWUHoops, including the past five as an assistant coach.  He is known for his infectious energy and passion for the growth of the players he coaches.  To celebrate Thanksgiving, Coach Whaley takes some time to reflect on why he has it good.


"Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." 

        -James 1:2-4

Every Thanksgiving, as my family goes around the table, I say the standard, "I'm thankful for my family, my friends, my job, and all the other many blessings God has given me." While that is true, I always leave the table thinking, "What a generic expression of gratitude."

When I woke up this morning, I began to pray over my life and the areas that are so often overlooked. "Lord, open my eyes to blessings and opportunities that have molded and shaped me into the man I am today." As I prayed, I was amazed at what He laid upon my heart. I thought God would inspire thoughts of the different people who have blessed me without my knowledge or remind me of a great experience that I took for granted. Instead, He urged me to consider where I would be without the experiences of pain and struggle in my life. I was reminded of the times when I was faced with a choice: selfishness or faithfulness. While this seems like a simple choice, the status quo is to choose the path of least resistance. The path with the least amount of pain. The faithful route will require us to elevate the quo - we will be forced out of our comfort zone.

When I consider the scripture out of James 1, I can't help but think that the Lord doesn't expect me to be shouting from the rooftops in a world where our homes are being invaded, our cities are being bombed, our loved ones are taken away, and our livelihood is at stake.

I believe He expects and wants us to experience this pain. This pain is what inspires our decision to get through the struggle. Once we've experienced the pain, we must make the decision to remain faithful to our Creator. That is where joyfulness comes in. We must take joy in the fact that God already knows how this will turn out. He already has a plan to make us a more complete person than we previously were. As James tells us in the ladder part of the passage, the end goal of the trial is not to be "pain free". Rather, to be "mature and complete, lacking nothing." Ultimately, that's where we all want to be. Whether it's in our faith, relationships, professions, or finances, we all want to be in a place where we lack nothing. If we take that approach and remain faithful to God through the process (which could last a day, a week, or even the rest of our lives), we can take comfort in the fact that when it is over, one thing will be for certain: "We will be mature and complete, lacking nothing." 

When it's my turn to express gratitude, I'll be singing a different tune. Of course, I'm thankful for my incredible family, friends, and the best job in the world. This year, however, I'm choosing to be grateful for the trials God has allowed to shape and mold me into the man I am today. I'm thankful for the example of Davey Blackburn and so many other individuals who have committed to elevating the quo in times where it would be so easy to maintain the status quo. It is with this spirit of thankfulness that I approach the table