Summer 2024

THE INCREASE: Afflicted - Jerry Birch

As the Lord began to break me through untold adversity, transforming my life using all my fears, frustrations, failure and folly, I was led to these verses in Psalm 119. These have become life verses for me:

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word … It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees” (verses 67,71).

When I was a younger Christian and really began to study God’s Word in earnest, I struggled with Psalm 119. First of all it was so long — 176 verses!

Furthermore, the opening verses were intimidating: “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are they who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart” (verses 1-2).

I understand now, at age 66, I wasn’t ready yet to be all in with God at that point. Reading this psalm made me feel guilty because I was still more interested in worldly things than becoming the man the Lord wanted me to be. This attitude led to a lot of bad choices and heartache for my family and me.

Now I get it. Lasting joy is found not in chasing worldly achievements, but living in obedience to God’s Word. “Walk the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).

Jerry Birch, Cleveland Cavaliers chaplain

The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit for more stories and videos.