A Life You Can’t Earn

Just last night Liz and I watched the final scene from the epic World War II tribute, Saving Private Ryan. The story tells of an Army Ranger unit that is charged with the task of searching for and saving Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), a fellow Army paratrooper, from behind enemy lines.

The Ranger’s Captain, John Miller, played by Tom Hanks, leads his squad on the rescue mission and finds Private Ryan. As they seek refuge, they learn that the Germans are advancing on their position. Miller and his men are significantly outnumbered and they retreat into the deserted, war-torn village.

As they come under attack and their casualties mount, the only option is further retreat. In their final efforts, Captain Miller takes a bullet to his chest. In his dying breath, he reaches out for Private Ryan’s hand and pulls him in close to whisper something.

In an emotional exchange, Hanks delivers these words:

“Earn this.”

It’s Captain Miller’s charge to Ryan to remember the lives that were lost to save his. As the movie ends, we flash forward to see an elderly James Ryan at the graveside of Captain John Miller as he tearfully laments, “I hope I earned it.”

The trouble is, I think the movie got it all wrong.


I now have twenty-seven staples in my side. A four-inch scar that will forever remind me of the grace and mercy I have been shown.

I am cancer free.

As grateful as I am to share those words with you, it’s a difficult pill to swallow, especially when I see so many others whose diagnoses are strikingly different.

I try to purpose my whys and questions of fairness begin to emerge in my mind. Questions to which I have no answers. When I think like this, I feel the tension that Private Ryan felt. The pressure to earn it.

This pressure is real in my own life and I feel it in the lives of others. If we’re not cautious, it can be all-consuming.

However, this is where I believe the movie of our lives takes a different course from that which we see on the silver screen.

For some, our cancer is physical, a deformity that has the potential to ravage our bodies. At times, it can be slowed and even removed, but it doesn’t rid us of our condition.

My own scar reminds me that physically I have been pierced in order to be saved.

That is a humbling thought.

However, there is a much deeper cancer. One that ravages our soul. My own experience has brought even more acknowledgement of it’s existence. It is a spiritual cancer whose spreading cannot be stalled with our own efforts. The beauty is, there is One in whom we can place our trust because he was pierced so we could be saved.

“He was pierced for our transgressions…by His wounds, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

By Jesus’ wounds, ours have been healed. Our spiritual brokenness no longer holds power over us. Because this deeper, spiritual condition has been redeemed, our exterior, physical condition becomes secondary. The nails in his hands and feet, the piercings in his side provide redemption.

And there’s nothing we can do to earn this.

It is His grace, freely given, that gives us life.

Seeing this imagery unfold in the storybook of my life brings me peace, and it is this peace I hope to share with you.

These words from the Apostle Paul radiate the truth that I continue to learn.

God’s story is rich.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

Christ endured the poverty of a broken body and a broken spirit so that, in Him, we could have life.

The number of people who have told me that my story has reminded them to have an area checked or to follow-up on an appointment affirms that God is at work, even in my brokenness. Those that have reached out to join me in prayer and share their own journeys has been so amazing.

My prayer is that the story wouldn’t end here. Why? Because there are many more who don’t realize that they’re sick.

And we will love them with a love that can’t be earned.

I was met head-on with my physical sickness and it provided a reflection of my own spiritual condition and the great lengths that have been traveled to bring me freedom.

I accept that freedom when I trust in Him who provides it.

My question is, have you considered the same for yourself?



Here at www.mattham.com we redefine the meaning of rich. I would love for you to join us in our continued pursuit to understand a deeper meaning of what it means to live richly. Feel free to comment and share as I love to hear from you.

Also, look around and grab a copy of my free eBook "I Am Here".

Thanks for stopping by!


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11 Responses to A Life You Can’t Earn

  1. Ken Maxwell June 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Matt, great words to hear. You are in my prayers my friend. Blessings on you during your recovery.

    • Matt Ham June 20, 2014 at 5:09 am #

      Thank you Ken! Hope the family is doing well.

  2. offset81 June 19, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    Luv u man.

  3. Kristin Ingram June 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    Congratulations. So glad to hear you are cancer free. I remember when the doctor told me I was finally cured. After seven years, I am still grateful every day.

    • Matt Ham June 20, 2014 at 5:08 am #

      Kristin that is so wonderful. What a blessing!

  4. Laura Robb June 19, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    So glad to hear the GREAT news, Matt. A testimony of answered prayers! Thank you for bravely writing and sharing in the midst of it all. I’m always encouraged by your posts. God is good!

    • Matt Ham June 20, 2014 at 5:07 am #

      Yes He is Laura!! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Stan Stinson June 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    That is great news Matt and a great post to go along with the news. Thanks for sharing your story as it will help many others.

  6. Voni Pottle June 27, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    Matt, I came to your blog because of your post on Jeff Goins blog… reading what you wrote here touched me deeply… and I now want to follow your writings, and share it with others.
    I will soon be 82 – my mind can’t believe it! even though my body tries to convince me!?! I’ve lived in Brazil almost 35 years, serving God there( that is “home” to me) and am now in Portland, Oregon. . I just started on the TRIBE WRITERS course, and absolutely love the challenge. . . although it will take me more than 8 weeks. I’m THANKFUL for all I am reading and learning! including finding you. God is good!
    Thanks so much for this blog.

    • Matt Ham June 29, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      WOW Voni! Thank you so much – how inspiring to hear your words. God is good indeed! Please stay in touch.


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