Athletes are unique in their sports, styles, and stories, but they all have one thing in common: they must overcome. All kinds of people in all kinds of roles and jobs must learn to push through adversity in order to experience a reward on the other side.
Benjamin Watson of the Baltimore Ravens was the host of today’s message. He knows the joy and pain of playing in the Superbowl and has experienced the joy of being able to overcome through Christ.
Several Christian players from both of this year’s Superbowl teams, the Patriots and the Falcons, shared their joys and trials of the year in getting to the championship game. They shared their stories of injuries, challenges, fear, grief in losing loved ones, battling illness, and trusting God in uncertainty. They acknowledged God for the great opportunity they’ve been given to play in the Superbowl, for the fulfillment of lifelong dreams, and for the blessing of working hard as a team, supporting one another, and celebrating victory together.
The Football Sunday message highlighted three NFL players, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. May their stories of overcoming in the Lord encourage you!
Anquan Boldin, winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, has come a long way in his personal life. As a player in the NFL, Anquan was living his dream. After all the hardships of his youth, his hard work and dedication had finally paid off. He was scoring touchdowns on a national stage and achieving his dreams. He was on top of the world, but he was also selfish, wanting things his way and in his own timing.
The more Anquan fell in love with Jesus, the more he looked for opportunities to serve people, knowing that sometimes the only way people will get to know who God is is by watching our lives.
When Anquan’s son was born, his perspective began to change. He realized he was no longer just living for himself; everything he did -- good or bad -- affected his son, and he did not want his son to experience the hardships he had faced. As he became more serious about his relationship with his now wife, he was challenged by her view of him. She saw Anquan as the man God wanted him to be, so he began to understand his purpose to honor God in everything he did.
The more Anquan fell in love with Jesus, the more he looked for opportunities to serve people, knowing that sometimes the only way people will get to know who God is is by watching our lives. Now Anquan wants to worship God and be obedience in every part of his life: his marriage, his job, his finances, and in all the opportunities that God grants, whether it is traveling to Africa or speaking before a crowd. Following God’s prompting, Anquan began a foundation in his hometown in Florida to expand opportunities for underprivileged children, provide summer enrichment programs, and help teens get their education back on track so they can graduate. His work for others is not for an award or to be recognized by men, but for the rewards of heaven.
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8
Anquan has devoted his life to helping people overcome obstacles, but we all have people in our lives that need help to overcome and to see God’s promises and hope for the future. Who in your life needs your help in overcoming something that is too big for him/her to handle alone?
Brandon and Michi Marshall shared how they have grown in the Lord, both personally and together. Brandon grew up in a poor neighborhood in Pittsburgh, surrounded by drugs and violence. Michi came from a single-parent household and did not have a reliable father figure or a man she could trust to provide for and protect her. Neither of them had the privilege of seeing a healthy marriage or a loving relationship between a man and a woman as they grew up.
On their own, they didn’t know how to have the marriage and life they wanted, but they recognized the dysfunction of their own experiences. They surrounded themselves with other believers and sought God wholeheartedly through His Word and prayer. They committed to bettering themselves, taking their marriage seriously, and learning how to communicate.
Brandon and Michi made a covenant with each other and God that they would live individually as new creations in Christ, despite their pasts, and break the generational cycle of their families. Finally, as Brandon was on his knees after years of seeking the Lord and crying out to Him, he felt a lightness in his soul that could only be expressed with laughter, knowing for certain that the cycle of pain was finally broken.
But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children.Psalm 103:17
Maybe it’s your turn to overcome the bad decisions that someone else has brought upon you. Despite your past, you can overcome your circumstances and experience the freedom that comes only through the blood of Jesus.
D’Brickashaw & Kirsten Ferguson’s story began with how they met and fell in love. Her mindset was that after they were married, they would have children and live happily ever after, but there were some very difficult trials awaiting them. During an ultrasound in their first pregnancy, Kirsten discovered that there was no heartbeat and was given medication to induce labor and miscarry at home. The experience was incredibly painful, both physically and emotionally. For the next six months, the couple experienced a lot of trials and conflict as they worked out their feelings and expectations and eventually sought counseling together.
Then they got pregnant again, and once again experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage. Kirsten shared that because of all she was feeling and experiencing, she became angry with God and it became very difficult just to live everyday life and especially to be in church. One day as she sat in church with tears in her eyes, a random woman came up to encourage her with the words, God has not forgotten you. Kirsten was intensely affected by this truth and broke down before the Lord. Her hope was renewed and she knew God was still with her.
After this, Kirsten got pregnant again and gave birth to their first daughter, Eden Grace, and a year later, they had another daughter, Emery Faith.
Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.” “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins. Isaiah 39:14-16
In our pain, in our struggles, and in the uncontrollable events of our lives, God has not forgotten us because He has written our names on the palm of His hands. We can overcome, not because we try harder and get stronger, but because the One who overcame sin and death gives us the power to overcome.
I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Revelation 1:18
Don’t miss the fact that Jesus holds the keys to death and that is what gives us the ability to overcome.
There’s something in all of us that wants to know Him. Some of us try different ways to get close to Him, such as going the church, doing nice things, or giving money, but there’s only one way to have a right relationship with God: through Jesus Christ. Jesus is open to receive anyone who wants to repent from sin and put his/her faith and trust in Him.
You can do this today by praying to God. Thank Him for allowing you to hear His voice and have faith in Him. Acknowledge His absolute holiness and the sin in your heart that deserves death and keeps you from His presence. And finally, acknowledge that Jesus’ death and resurrection pay your debt. His blood wipes your sin away and provides the bridge to restore you to God so that you can be His child. In Him, you are a new creation with new life and by His Spirit, you have the power to overcome in your own life.
For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
On the Superbowl field, the reward will go to those who overcome, but in our lives, the best reward ever given is given to us by God Himself. Our names are etched in that reward forever and it cannot be taken away!