In a recent interview with four other members of the Seattle Seahawks team and Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung shared his testimony of how God has taught him about true manhood and about fatherhood, despite the fact that the he had lost his father at a very young age.
Russell Okung's father was shot and killed when the NFL player was only four years old. Okung grew up quickly as a result, self-sufficient and determined to take care of his mother and his sister as the man of the house. Growing up without a Dad, Okung says he looked to television to try to understand what a father was and what being a man should look like; he now sees clearly that the portrayal of manhood and of fatherhood that the world gives are lacking - "It wasn't the truth," he says. He eventually surrendered his life to Christ, and began to relate to God as his Heavenly Father.
Once Okung became a believer, he understood what a father truly is and what a man should be through seeing God's character displayed throughout the entire Bible. Okung loves how the different names for God reveal His character, like "Comforter, Peace, a Strong Tower, a Rock, Salvation - words like that describe what a father is supposed to be like," the NFL player says.
Okung realized that those were the very things that he had longed for as a young man growing up without a father, and he finally saw God as the One Who would fulfill those longings in his heart. "I needed to know as a young little boy that I was loved, and that there is a Father - a supreme, sovereign Father - Who came - came to me - and had been watching me every day of my life," he says. As Okung began to walk with the Lord, he says that these attributes of God's character became manifest in his life.
"Most of the guys I grew up with are either dead or in jail," says Okung - yet God was gracious to show him His need for a Savior and to set his feet on the sure path. Okung is thankful that God also placed strong, believing men in his life to point him to the Lord and to help keep him accountable. Those men are great resources for him, and they still pour into Okung's life to this day.
Reflecting on the grace of God in his life, Okung realized that everything that had happened to him as a child really wasn't about him. "It was about God," Okung attests. God knew that Okung would exalt His name, and He has given him opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ while playing in the NFL. "He saw this man who I was going to be today ... He knew that beforehand. That is amazing to me - it blows my mind," Okung says - "It wasn't about my heartache, my circumstances - it is truly about Him."
Okung testifies from experience that God is always good, and even works through tragic circumstances for the good of His children (see Romans 8:28). "In tragedy, He is triumphant. He wins all the time," Okung says emphatically - "He has the final word, always."
Seeing Okung's passion for the Lord, Driscoll recommended that he become a preacher one day when he is ready to retire from the NFL. Most importantly, he encouraged Okung to be the beginning of a godly chain of men in his family who will pursue the Lord wholeheartedly. "We're all going to be praying for you," Driscoll said - "[That] you marry a gal that loves Jesus, you stay faithful to her, and that when God gives you sons - and I believe God will give you sons - that you see them as an inheritance, and a blessing."
"God's going to start a new legacy in your family through your sons," the pastor continued - "Ultimately, the most important thing you do is going to be off the football field. It's going to be the woman you marry, and the way you raise your sons."