I’m always encouraged when I hear of or see a Christian who uses success as an opportunity to give God the glory when given the chance. During the 2019 “March Madness” NCAA basketball tournament, there were numerous players who, because of their excellent play in helping their teams to victory, were interviewed after the game and made sure to praise their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the ability He gave them to perform. Both teams in the championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech had a number of Christians who were very vocal about their faith, as was the winning coach from Virginia, Tony Bennet. “May their tribe increase!”
They remind me of Hadassah, a young Jewish virgin who, because of her great beauty, was chosen to become queen to Persian King Ahasuerus. Then Mordecai, who had been raising his cousin Hadassah (or Esther, her Persian name), discovered a plot to have all Jews killed. Mordecai challenged Esther to use her position as a platform of appeal to save the Jews from annihilation, saying: “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Esther responded by risking her life by approaching the king uninvited, was successful in her mission and the king made a new edict allowing the Jews to protect themselves, which they did very successfully and established the Feast of Purim to celebrate the event.
Our son, Grant, has been teaching and coaching at North Clackamas Christian School in Oregon City, OR for the past 18 years and has had some really amazing athletes come through, but maybe none more talented than Ethan Kassebaum (known as “E.K.”). E.K., who graduated a year ago was a three-sport athlete as well as co-valedictorian of his class with a 4.0 GPA. Since NCCS doesn’t offer football, E.K. played for Oregon City High School where he was running back and punter. In his final season, he ran for 1,023 yards (93 yards/game) and made 13 touch downs. I should mention that NCCS is a 1A school (smallest category in Oregon) and OCHS is a 6A school (largest schools in Oregon).
E.K. played on Grant’s basketball team during the winter season, and though not super tall (5’11-6’0), he could out jump any opponent and was an awesome rebounder. He would also often bring the ball up the floor—like a running back! Pretty fun to watch!
In the spring, E.K. put his God-given talents to work on the track team, where he was amazing to watch. We had the privilege of watching him take four firsts at the divisional meet. Sure wish we could have stayed in Oregon to watch him perform at state. Our son kept us updated. Here is a text Grant sent us from the state meet:
“Got to see some pretty amazing performances yesterday at the state track meet. As you might imagine, it was highlighted by E.K.’s performances. In the triple jump he jumped 43’9” on his second jump and since no one else in the state had come close to that this year he passed on his next jumps until the very end of the finals when the next to last jumper flew out to a crazy personal best for him of 44’5”. E.K. was still sitting at the event but he had his sprinting shoes on ready to walk over to the start of the 100 meters. The group of guys who were running in the 100 were being walked over to the starting line but E.K. quickly changed his shoes, got back on the runway, got himself refocused and proceeded to jump 46’2” (nearly two feet better than his PR) in the final jump of his high school career! He then quickly put his running shoes back on and headed over to the start of the 100 meters and got himself stretched and ready to go. He got a great start when the gun went off but one of the runners had false started! EK got back in the blocks and did it all again. He went into the race as the number three seed and had not run a personal record all year. He led from wire to wire and finished with a personal and school record of 22.27 seconds—absolutely amazing! He got a state meet record. Oh, yes, and he won the long jump with a personal record and also the 200 meters, piling up 40 points for NCCS!”
In spite of his amazing successes in sports and academics, E.K., remains an extremely modest and humble young man with a maturity beyond his years. Grant said of E.K., “Whether he has success or failure in a (basketball) game, he keeps everything in perspective and never intentionally brings attention to himself—a quality hard to find in players with his talent.” Another of E.K.’s high school teachers said of E.K., “He is driven academically and athletically, but he is also very loyal to friends, himself, and above all, his faith. He holds true to his spiritual compass, even though he could easily be a big man on campus at any public school.
E.K.’s testimony was really put to the test as he played football for Oregon City High School. When he was a freshman, an older teammate offered him $100 to say the “F” word out loud. E.K. walked away. Others invited him to party with them and he credits his solid Christian foundation both from his home and NCCS for his ability to resist the temptations that were set before him. As a result, he had teammates who asked him about his Christian faith. He used his platform of success and the respect he gained, to talk about his faith in Christ. (NOTE: E.K. is attending George Fox University and is in both football and track).
What “platform” has God provided you in your walk in life? Are you using it to glorify Him and to give testimony of your faith in Jesus Christ? I hope so!