Seattle Seahawks players Russell Wilson, Chris Maragos, Clint Gresham, and Russell Okung are using professional football to make much of Jesus Christ. Hoping to lead many to salvation, they produced an evangelistic DVD along with two of their coaches and gave it to 28,000 fans at a football game in October. The players gave bits of their testimonies in the short film, and then shared the Gospel and an invitation to receive Christ as well.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson grew up going to church with his family. Immersed in football, he never paid much attention to the faith or had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One night while he was away at football camp, he had a dream that his father died. Jesus came to him in that dream and knocked on his door, saying that Wilson needed to find out more about Him. "That Sunday morning I ended up going to church, and that's when I got saved," he says. His father passed away six years later, and Wilson is all the more grateful to have come to know his Savior.
The team's long snapper, Clint Gresham, believes that a champion is someone who is "not only great in their profession, but somebody who is an impact on people around them ... who takes their role very, very seriously." Gresham does just that - an active Young Life leader, he feels called to "reach young people before they need to be rescued."
Gresham grew up believing that God's love for him was conditional - "I believed that God loved me as long as I was good, as long as I performed for Him," he says. Gresham was seeking the affirmation and the love of God, but as he would learn later, the Gospel has "nothing to do with that," - that God's love is unconditional for those in Christ.
Gresham is grateful for the other believers that God has placed around him on the team. "I love this game. I love the community that we have on the team," he says. When once he idolized football, he now plays the game "to glorify Jesus Christ - because I was empty and alone, and Jesus came and He set me free. He gave me peace, He gave me joy," he says.
Offensive tackle Russell Okung says he grew up being extremely self-sufficient after the death of his father. Okung became the man of his household at a very young age, and it wasn't until a hurricane hit his hometown while he was away from his mother and sister that he finally realized that he didn't have the control that he thought he had. He began to question why such hard things had happened in his life - "I found out that some things were really just out of my control, and that I couldn't do everything on my own ... that there had to be something bigger than what was happening in my life," he says.
Okung was sitting in church one day and felt he heard God whisper, "You don't have to do this alone anymore. You're not by yourself." He realized in that moment that God had always been there for him - "even though I thought I was being independent and doing things on my own, I couldn't have done any of those things without Him. At that time, I knew that God could be my only present hope - that if I truly believed in Him, that everything would take care of itself. And it did."
The once self-reliant young man started to notice that things were changing - "there became more of a peace about me," he says. Okung had received Christ - "I leaned and trusted in Him with everything that I had," he says. He now believes God has purposed him to "use [football] to reach back into the community, to reach back into people's lives, to really show who He is."
Running backs coach Sherman Smith was the starting quarterback for his college team, and went on to realize his dream in the NFL. "I just remember walking around campus ... saying, ‘Man, there's got to be more to it than this.' Feeling ... emptiness," he recalls. Smith knew there was something missing in his life, and didn't know who he was or why he was here. He was looking for "something more permanent than the temporary joys of winning a football game."
One day, one of his Christian teammates in the NFL suffered a career-ending knee injury. "I saw how he handled that, how he had a confidence," says Smith. He was taken aback by the way the Christian responded to the situation. "I'm excited to see what God has planned for my life. I'm a Christian, and nothing happens in my life that's not filtered through God's hands first," he told Smith. Smith knew that he did not have that confidence - "If that were me, my world would have fallen apart," he says. He asked his friend to tell him more about Jesus Christ - he wanted to have that confidence.
"Ask the why questions," encourages Smith - "God's word is solid, the foundation is solid, the promises are solid, the future is solid," he says.
"There was a time in all of our lives when we thought we had all of the answers. We put our identity and our trust in something that was temporal, and the result was a huge void in our heart and a dissatisfaction in what we turn to for comfort," says Gresham.
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The reality is that no other god did what Jesus did - He came and He paid a price that we could never pay. Jesus came to rescue people because He couldn't bear the thought of eternity without us."
Gresham invites those who feel moved by this message to respond to the love of Christ and join him in prayer:
"Jesus, I invite You into my life. I want to make You Lord of my life. I acknowledge that I've sinned, I've messed up, and I want to accept what You did on the cross on my behalf so that I can have fellowship with You."
He encourages those who respond to get involved with a local church and to plug in with other believers.
The Seahawks will take on the New Orleans Saints this Saturday at 3:35 p.m. CST.