What do the following people have in common: Kevin Durant, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Short, Michael McDowell, Jesse Williams, Paul Azinger, Wiley Peterson, Cindy Klassen, Claudio Taffarel, Matt Forte, and Asafa Powell? They are all world-class athletes, believers in Jesus Christ and have worked extremely hard at their sport. And, because of their God-given abilities and discipline in training, they have had fantastic results and have been a positive role model to their peers and before the public.
Asafa Powell is a Jamaican sprinter specializing in the 100 meters. He has broken the 10-second barrier nearly 70 times!
Matt Forte is a running back for the Chicago Bears in the NFL.
Claudio Taffarel was a goal keeper for the Brazilian soccer team. He helped lead his team to the World Cup title in 1994.
Cindy Klassen is a long track speed skater from Canada and a five-time medalist in the Winter Olympics. She currently holds the world record in the 1,000 meter, 1,500 meter, and the 3,000 meter.
Born in Pocatello, Idaho, Wiley Peterson is one of the top bull riders in the world. If you visit his website, you will read this statement: “As much as I enjoy riding bulls, I am much more passionate about my relationship with Jesus Christ.” Also on his website is Mt.16:25: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
Paul Azinger is a professional golfer with 17 titles. He was in the top ten golfers in the world for 300 weeks from 1988-1994. He also captained America’s victorious Ryder cup in 2008. Paul’s faith in Christ has helped him battle through cancer.
Jesse Williams is one of the best high jumpers in the world. He set a Pac-10 record at 7′ 5.75″ in 2005, breaking an 18-year old mark. He spends the majority of his time traveling and competing as well as regularly speaking or interacting with groups to share his faith in Christ.
Michael McDowell is a NASCAR driver who knows what it is like to be driving a car at more than 200 miles per hour, losing control, hitting a wall, and then tumbling eight times. He walked away from the wreck knowing it wasn’t the day God chose for him to die. But a few years earlier, McDowell wasn’t prepared to face the impending reality of his own mortality. He faced the unexpected death of a friend (Ron Huber) which was a reality check for him. He totally committed his life to Christ and has been growing in his faith since then.
Andrew Short is a Motocross superstar. An experience at a church youth camp helped him realize that God is always there and His love is unconditional. Andrew began riding bikes when he was five and dreamed of one day racing professionally. Through a lot of hard work and perseverance, he got the chance after graduating from high school and is now living his dream. He also discovered that there’s a void in everybody’s life that only Jesus Christ can fill. He loves competing but finds his real fulfillment in his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Clayton Kershaw is now in his third season pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is the youngest pitcher (23 on March 19) to start in the season opener since Fernando Valenzuela in 1983. For new Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, naming Kershaw the Opening Day starter was an easy decision. As Mattingly said, “He has earned the respect–the person he is, the work he has done, the advancement he’s making.” His strong work ethic and commitment to Christ are clearly visible to all around him and make it easy to understand why Col. 3:23 is his favorite verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” The strong work ethic isn’t overlooked by his coaches and teammates.
NBA superstar Kevin Durant is the youngest player to lead the league in scoring, and he won a world championship playing for the United States last summer, but he leads a quiet life as he seeks to walk closer with His Lord. Kevin’s teammates say “he is very humble yet has become the leader of his team and a lot of guys follow his lead. He helps them get better with his actions and the way he is. It just makes guys want to be around him.” For Kevin, the concept of appreciating life is deeply rooted in reality. On April 30, 2005, Durant’s AAU coach Charles Craig was murdered in a gang-related case of mistaken identity. Ever since he has worn the number 35 on his jersey in honor of Craig who was 35 years old at the time of his death. Kevin grasped the concept that tomorrow is not promised so he’s going to be as good as he can be today and if he’s given tomorrow he’ll be better yet. Durant’s uncanny ability to remain grounded and levelheaded can be traced to family and a solid understanding of his Christian faith that was cultivated while attending private school. Now he relies on regular chapel attendance during the season, a spiritual coach, and his teammates as a means to a stronger walk with the Lord. Kevin says, “I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can.”
None of these professional athletes has it all together or is perfect, but they do demonstrate the work ethic that should characterize believers in every walk of life, for as Clayton Kershaw’s favorite verse challenges us: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:23). For these athletes, it has obviously paid off in terms of their accomplishments and the respect given them by their coaches, fans and peers. But even more important, their lives have brought glory to the name of Jesus Christ. How about you. No matter what your vocation or role in life, do you do it with all your heart as unto the Lord? You should? And if you receive any human recognition for your achievements, be sure to give the glory to the Lord.
P.S. If you have an interest in sports and the testimonies of Christian Athletes, I highly recommend that your subscribe to Sport’s Spectrum magazine (1-866-821-2971; www.SportsSpectrum.com).