Today we were privileged to hear an interview with Chargers Running Back Danny Woodhead.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. 1 Corinthians 18:26-29
Everyone’s life has ups and downs, but God is always working in the life process.
Pastor Miles asserted that whenever we share a story in an interview, it’s important for you to place yourself in that person’s story. Everyone’s life has ups and downs, but God is always working in the life process. Danny Woodhead’s ups and downs may not be the same as yours, but you can try to place yourself in his shoes and apply the same learning to your life, as we have all been through struggles and disappointments.
Growing up in Nebraska, Danny was fortunate to have parents who loved the Lord and taught him how to have a relationship with Jesus. He was saved at a very young age and although he may not have fully understood what it meant at the time, it is easy now to see how God has always had a plan for Danny and has been with him every step of the way.
Although Danny was physically unusual for a running back, being caucasian and 5’8” tall, he had an excellent high school football career. As a senior, he scored 30 touchdowns, rushed 2,000 yards, was the Gatorade Player of the Year and made all-state (was the best high school running back in Nebraska). It would seem with those accomplishments, Danny wound easily be offered a college scholarship, but he didn’t get an offer from a Division 1 school.
God had a different plan for him. Eventually Danny was offered a scholarship from a Division II school where he would play with his brother, so he accepted and played there for four years. He had a great college career as well, setting the all-time career rushing record for any college player in history. It would seem with that accomplishment, Danny would easily be called to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he didn’t get an invitation. He was a little surprised and definitely disappointed.
Later, the University of Nebraska invited him to an event similar to the combine, during which he ended up running an unbelievably fast time and vertically jumping higher than anyone could have expected him to. Danny said he felt like something supernatural was happening! But even with these incredible numbers, at the end of the NFL draft, Danny’s name had not been called, so he ended up signing as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets, a position that held no promises.
Danny went to the workouts and had such a good off-season that by the time the team was headed into training camp, he thought he had a pretty decent shot of making the team. But on Day 2 of training camp, Danny tore his ACL, which carried a 9 to 12 month rehab time. The timing of training camp had made him miss his brother’s wedding and now he would not even make the team. He was understandably angry and disappointed. On his way to the MRI, he called his wife and told her he was finished. As a 5’8”, injured, and white running back, certainly no team would want him.
But this was all included in God’s plan. We often feel life should be fair, but God is not fair - He is righteous. He is not concerned so much about our happiness as He is about our holiness. He wants us to turn from trust in ourselves to trust in Him. God knows, by the way, that most running backs are bigger and of a different race than Danny, but His plan was to do something incredible with this unlikely player.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
As he was waiting in the hospital, Danny was really angry and felt distant from God. But then suddenly he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and a peaceful reassurance that he was going to be okay and that he would play next year and make the team. His inclination was to doubt and disbelieve - surely God didn’t know the difficulty of the NFL or how unlikely it was that Danny would ever be a pro running back.
When you are a free agent, nothing is guaranteed. A team can play you and let you go with no commitment to pay your salary. So the next year, Danny played for a short time and was then released. He drove back to Omaha and told his wife there was a strong chance he was done with the NFL. He didn’t have enough professional play time under his belt to show any team that he was worth picking up, so he was sure that no team would want him now.
The next night, Danny’s agent called and said the Patriots were interested in signing him! It was a very rushed trip back east and he made it for the signing with only three minutes to spare before the deadline. The next day, a teammate was injured and Danny got an unexpected opportunity to play. It was not easy to join a new offense that has practiced over 100 specific team plays without you, but during his second run, Danny scored an amazing 48-yard touchdown. He was amazed and thrilled.
The next week’s game was prime time Monday Night Football against the Dolphins and Danny scored again. He felt he was on an amazing supernatural ride, hanging on for dear life - he would have a job for another week! In the end, Danny was blessed with three years in New England. God was there when he felt most insignificant and could not do it on his own. Today, Danny is the only active white running back in the NFL.
Throughout life, trials will happen that you don’t like and don’t understand. While our human inclination is to get frustrated and disappointed, we need to examine our expectations. Often we have the wrong expectations of God and the wrong response - distancing ourselves, pouting, or refusing to pray or read God’s Word. We instead need to trust that He knows what is happening, that He has a bigger plan, and that He is working out our holiness over time.
A couple of years ago, Danny broke his leg. Again, he experienced a time of struggle and doubt and reached out to God. He encountered a familiar verse, one that he had always known, but presented in a different version, it had new meaning to him:
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:13 (The Message)
This truth hit Danny in a powerful way. He felt God whispering to him that no matter what happens in his life, whether he is playing in the NFL or not, scoring touchdowns or not, it doesn’t really matter. Because he has surrendered his life to Christ, He knows that God has his life. So no matter what comes his way, he’s going to try to live out that truth and in the end, Jesus is all he needs.
Whatever you already have and whatever your hopes and desires are - for your relationships, health, job, finances, goals, etc. - offer it out to God with open hands. Ask Him to do whatever He wants to do with them and with your life. If He continues to entrust it to your care and bless it, or takes it and puts something else in its place, or changes it in ways you didn’t anticipate, you can have peace in the knowledge of Philippians 4:13, come what may.