Louis Zamperini dies at age 97

Last week, the world lost a true hero and true example of Christ: Louis “Louie” Zamperini. He was 97. He ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he was a World War II hero and POW, and he spoke on forgiveness every chance he had — even going and witnessing, after the war, to the very Japanese prison guards who severely beat him for two years.

“I get so many letters from Christians,” says Zamperini in a story written by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in 2011, “and some of them are having a tough time. I write back and share Scripture with them.”

He describes a letter he received recently from a man who had been fired from his job.

“This man was a Christian and forgave everyone else in his life, but he had a hard time forgiving the boss who fired him. He hated the man. But then he read in ‘Unbroken’ how I forgave the POW prison guard.” Now this man has not only forgiven his boss, he is praying for him.

Zamperini’s biography, Unbroken, became a New York Times No. 1 bestseller in 2010.

A movie by the same name will be released on Christmas Day of this year.

Closeup Tribute — Louis Zamperini

Louie Zamperini Spread

On July 2, the world lost a true hero and true example
of Christ: Louis Silvie “Louie” Zamperini.
He was 97. Zamperini was born Jan. 26, 1917, in
Olean, New York, to Italian immigrants who spoke
no English when they came to the United States.

In 1934, as 17-year-old, he set a world interscholastic mile
record (4 minutes, 21.2 seconds), and two years later, as a
19-year-old at Southern Cal, he earned a spot on the U.S.
Olympic track and field team by tying American record holder,
Don Lash, in the 5,000 meters at the U.S. trials, and becoming
the youngest to ever make the team in that event. Zamperini
ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing eighth, and two
years later set the collegiate mile record in 4:08.

Less than 7 years later, he was fighting in World War II,
where he became a POW in one of the most notorious Japanese
prison camps of the war, and later a war hero after he
was awarded the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and
the Prisoner of War Medal.

But his life was defined, not by his athletic and military
achievements, but by his forgiving spirit. Whenever he had
the chance, he spoke on forgiveness – even going and witnessing,
after the war, to the very Japanese prison guards who
severely beat him for two years.

“I get so many letters from Christians,” said Zamperini in
a story written by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association
in 2011, “and some of them are having a tough time. I write
back and share Scripture with them.”

Zamperini, who became a Christian in 1949 at a Billy Graham
Crusade in Los Angeles, described a letter he received
from a man who had been fired from his job. “This man was
a Christian and forgave everyone else in his life, but he had
a hard time forgiving the boss who fired him. He hated the
man. But then he read in ‘Unbroken’ how I forgave the POW
prison guard.” Now this man has not only forgiven his boss,
he is praying for him.”

Zamperini’s patience, forgiving spirit and resilience were
molded by his faith and his experiences in running and war.

“You learn perseverance in running,” Zamperini said in an
interview with famed television journalist Tom Brokow, who
was interviewing Zamperini in advance of the upcoming movie,
Unbroken, about Zamperini’s inspirational and extraordinary
life. “Right in the middle of almost giving up, you try again
and again until you overcome. And that’s important in a war,
too, the determination to come out first, to come out alive. To
persevere, I think it’s important for everybody, don’t give up,
don’t give in, there’s always an answer to everything.”

A book about Zamperini’s life, Unbroken, became a New York
Times No. 1 bestseller in 2010, and Time Magazine ranked it
as the best non-fiction book that year. The movie, Unbroken,
will be released on Christmas Day of this year. ’

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

Closeup — Chelsea Baker

Chelsea Baker Spread

Like fishing stories that morph each year when aging
anglers add several inches and pounds to their “big
catch,” Chelsea Baker’s story seems to get better
with age, as well.

The only difference is that her story is true.

Baker, who was featured in Sports Spectrum three years ago
for dominating the baseball diamond with her knuckleball, is
now a rising senior at Durant High in Plant City, Fla. where she
is playing on the high school baseball team – yes, a baseball
team with all boys.

She had a solid season throwing her knuckleball, recording
3 wins, 0 losses, 3 saves, 1 complete game, while giving
up only 3 hits and 3 walks in 19 innings. Her ERA? A
stunning 0.74.

However, what happened June 23 at Tropicana Field in Tampa is
something she’ll likely remember longer than those statistics.
She threw batting practice to Major League Baseball’s Tampa
Bay Rays and she also threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Baker was introduced to the knuckler by a coach with whom
she had a special relationship — the late Joe Niekro, who perfected
it during 22 seasons in the major leagues. She was only
a tyke when she coaxed him into providing some instruction.

“He threw it to all of us in batting practice. I would always
just laugh whenever he threw it to me because I knew I
couldn’t hit it,” she told Sports Spectrum in 2011. “So I used
to always beg him to teach me it, and he’d always be like, ‘No.
It’s a secret.’

“I think since I bothered him so much, he just taught it to
me, and I caught on to it.”
Niekro died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2006 and never
saw his young prodigy master the pitch that has brought them
notoriety.

Baker credits the 221-game winner for much of her success,
but she saves her highest praise for God. Every morning,
she rolls out of bed and faces a baseball wall decoration she
customized with a photo of herself at the Hall of Fame and a
handwritten reminder from Philippians 4:13:

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

“I know that without Him, I would have never gotten this
far,” she says, “and I would never be here.”

By Brett Honeycutt and Bob Bellone

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

In The News — Paul Westphal

Paul Westphal Spread

Paul Westphal has seemingly come full circle.
The well-traveled player and coach has been an
NBA All-Star (five times) and coached the NBA All-
Stars (twice), he has played and coached in the
NBA finals, and he has been an NBA assistant coach and
head coach.

Now, he’s coaching again – this time with the Brooklyn
Nets and as an assistant coach under Lionel Hollins, who
played against Westphal in the NBA, coached with Westphal
when both were assistants with the Phoenix Suns, and served as
an assistant coach under Westphal when Westphal was the head coach in Phoenix
in the early 1990s.

The news of the 63-year-old Westphal’s return to the NBA (he was last in the
NBA as the head coach with the Sacramento Kings in 2012) was announced on
July 10 on his Facebook page, which is maintained by his wife of more than 40
years, Cindy.

“TOGETHER AGAIN!!!” were the first words on Westphal’s Facebook page that
day. “What an amazing turn of events the last ten or twelve days have been.
Jason Kidd bolted the Brooklyn Nets basketball organization, Lionel Hollins got
the phone call to take his place, about four days later Paul was awakened at 4:42
in the morning from a text beep. It was Lionel telling him to sit tight while he
first dealt with other business. This morning the phone rang…..an extremely long
conversation ensued. Coach Hollins had put the
wheels in motion that led to Paul’s agent, Steve
Kauffman, working out an assistant coaching
contract with Nets management. All that remains
are the i’s to be dotted and the t’s to be crossed.

“There are no words to describe the honor and
the thrill it is for Paul to now be Coach Hollins’
assistant with this exciting opportunity. He loves
the way Lionel sees the game, and competes. He
respects his basketball mind, the man and leader
he has proven himself to be. Paul is beyond
humbled to have been asked to join the staff,
even got a little misty-eyed from the time he
first learned it would be a possibility. GO NETS
!!!! …….cindy”

It will be a return to New York for Westphal,
who played for the Knicks from 1981-83.

Westphal, who was featured in Sports Spectrum’s
first issue 30 years ago when the magazine
was called Sports Focus, still has a strong relationship with Christ.

In an interview with Sports Spectrum this past winter, he shared what God had
been teaching him recently.

“I guess just to value every day for what it is, and not to take anything for
granted,” he told Sports Spectrum in January. “You know, we’re just passing through
this life, but we’re here for a reason. So, it’s important to not waste time.”

He isn’t wasting any time with his life, foregoing retirement and jumping back
into the NBA to impact lives.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

Closeup Tribute — Aeneas Williams

Aeneas Williams Spread

15-year NFL career with the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals
and the St. Louis Rams was fruitful for Aeneas
Williams.

Williams, who played cornerback and free safety,
was selected to eight Pro Bowls, six All-Pro teams, the NFL
1990’s All-Decade Team, the St. Louis Rams 10th Anniversary
Team, the Arizona Cardinals’ Ring of Honor, as well as being
named the Bart Starr Man of the Year (1999) for exemplifying
outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the
field and in the community.

On Aug. 2, he will add one more award to his list: Pro Football
Hall of Fame.

But his life hasn’t been all about football, especially since
he retired in 2004.

An ordained minister, Williams, along with his wife, Tracy,
started Spirit of the Lord Church in St. Louis in 2007 after
sensing God’s leading to start a ministry.

That aligned with what he told Sports Spectrum for a story
that appeared in the 2001 November/December issue.

“My biggest motivation is to please an invisible God who I
can see all the time,” said Williams in the 2001 November/December
issue of Sports Spectrum. “That sounds like a paradox,
but my No. 1 motivation is to please God at all times.”

Besides continuing to pastor the church today, and leading
Bible studies in the St. Louis community for church and nonchurch
members, Williams has a mentor-like role with younger
players at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium.

At the 2013 symposium, he asked players a poignant question:
Where could they find the most wealth in the world?

“Some would say in the heart, some Dubai – a number of
places, but the answer I’m looking for, I ultimately had to give
them, is the cemetery,” said Williams in a story on stlouisrams.
com in 2013. “Most people go to the grave without fully
reaching their potential, so potential inventions, books never
written, athletes never seen or only seen for a short period of
time (lie there).”

“I really wanted to encourage the guys that while you have
this opportunity, which is only one percent of all high school
players, to leverage this opportunity, be very respectful to
those that support the game, begin – when you start – to
think about leaving because the game always ends sooner,
many times, than most players are ready for it.”

Williams has lived out those encouraging words as a player
and now as a pastor, making the most of life’s opportunities
that God has given him.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

Closeup — Derrick Brooks

Derrick Brooks Spread

Longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick
Brooks was never concerned with the awards he
earned during his star-studded 14-year career.
His main focus was spiritual.

However, the awards kept coming and continued six years
after he retired in 2008 with news that he would be inducted
into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 2, in Canton, Ohio.

With his induction, he will join fellow Hall of Famers Mike
Singletary, Lawrence Taylor and the late Reggie White as the
only four NFL players who have ever earned NFL Defensive
Player of the Year, won a Super Bowl and been named to at
least 10 consecutive Pro Bowls.

In 2009, when he heard that statistic, he told Sports Spectrum
that he was humbled, but that his sights were set much
higher.

“The fraternity I want to be a part of…is in heaven,” Brooks
told Sports Spectrum for a story that appeared in the 2009
Winter issue. “I tell people all the time these things are great,
but the award I’m striving for is to spend eternity with God.”

Besides his achievements on the field (11 Pro Bowl appearances,
nine All-Pro selections, Super Bowl XXXVII victory, NFL
Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, Pro Bowl MVP in 2005),
he was also recognized for setting his sights on things outside
of the game, in 2000 and in 2003.

He was honored with the Walter Payton Man of the Year
Award (2000), which recognizes volunteer and charity work
and excellence on the field, as well as the Bart Starr Man of
the Year Award (2003), given to a player who exemplifies outstanding
character and leadership in the home, on the field
and in the community.

That same attitude remains consistent today, as well, as he
continues to run the Brooks Bunch charity and youth scholarship
foundation, which gives Tampa Bay-area children the
opportunity to go all over the country and to South Africa to
expose them to other cultures and what’s happening in those
cultures.

While running his charity, he is also an NFL television and
radio analyst, as well as part owner and team president of the
Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm.

But his life continues to be guided by God’s Word.

In January he was asked by the Pentecostal Evangel to name
his favorite Bible verse. He replied: “Proverbs 16:3 says, ‘Commit
to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your
plans’ (NIV). Galatians 2:20 says, ‘I have been crucified with
Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I
now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who
loved me and gave himself for me’.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

Finding Strength In The Lord

Spring 2014_feature_Dempsey

Clint Dempsey was in kindergarten when he discovered that he loved soccer. The exhilaration of scoring goals was exactly what he needed to deepen his love for a game that has taken him all over the world and allowed him to play at soccer’s highest level in Europe and in the United States.

“My parents had started me in the sport to help me learn good people skills,” Dempsey says. “Little did I know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God.”

Dempsey was 21 when he turned pro in 2004, the same year that he made his first U.S. national team and also earned Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the Year for his stellar play on the New England Revolution. Since then he has played in England for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur, helped the U.S. win the CONCACAF Gold Cup, represented the U.S. in World Cup play, and been named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year multiple times. Dempsey currently plays for the Seattle Sounders.

Though soccer has been a huge part of shaping Dempsey’s life, a tragedy when he was 12 years old changed his life forever.

“I grew up in a Catholic family and would go to church with my grandmother every Sunday. Through her, I learned that faith was important,” Dempsey says. “When I was 12 years old, my life took a turn that would change me forever. My sister (Jennifer) died (from a brain aneurysm) and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all. For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But He was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength.”

Though he knew about God, he wasn’t actively pursuing God. However, a team Bible study in college at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., helped him learn about God more and understand what an active faith really meant.

Spring 2014_feature_Dempsey2

“In college, I joined a team Bible study. God’s Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him,” Dempsey says. “I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction. Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me.”

He looks back on his college days and thanks God that he was a part of the Bible study, but he also looks back on that time and is thankful for something else—life.

One day, two of his teammates, Greg Griffin and Chefik Simo, asked him to go to a concert with them. Because he didn’t have much money, Dempsey told them he couldn’t go.

His lack of finances saved his life.

On the way to the concert, the car that Griffin and Simo were driving was in a wreck and had flipped over. An 18-wheeler hit the car and killed Griffin. Simo was injured to the point where he never played again.

Despite past tragedies in Dempsey’s life, it hasn’t made him pray for safety more often. It has deepened his perspective of life—that we don’t know when we’ll be gone and that we don’t have much time to make an impact in people’s lives—and also deepened his desire to please God.

“Today, I pray for strength to walk the road before me,” he says. “I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success He has given me. Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him.”

He does that by reading the Bible, which has given him insight and direction.

“God provides strength, even when circumstances seem impossible,” he says. “In Genesis, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many generations, but for years his wife, Sarah, was unable to bear children. Even as he approached one hundred years old, Abraham ‘did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God’ (Romans 4:20). Abraham’s faith was rewarded when God honored His promise and Sarah, at age 90, gave birth to their son, Isaac.”

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine.

Airing it Out — God’s Soft Spot

You may have heard the recent story of Antoine Turner, the Boise State recruit who was homeless and who Boise State had to ask the NCAA permission to help with living accommodations.

Two things struck me about this case, besides the obvious of having to ask permission to do the only humanly decent and logical thing for a person who was homeless (that any person or school would have to ask permission to help indicates how misplaced our priorities are in today’s society).

First, the NCAA’s quick response of letting Boise State know the school could help this young man gave me hope that all decency and common sense hasn’t been lost in this world – especially the world of “big-time” college football.

And second, that the willingness of the school and the commonsense approval by the NCAA showed that the most basic of Jesus’ teachings can be learned or taught through non-Christian entities. I’m not saying that people within those institutions are not Christian, but that those institutions are non-Christian and that we can learn a lot (or at least be reminded) that the most basic Christian gestures of helping the homeless is close to God’s heart, and, one could argue, an indicator of whether or not we’re even followers of Christ.

Before you think I’m reaching, or before you accuse me of adding anything to salvation or that I’m judging, read a few passages of Scripture below to see how God views the actions of helping (or not helping) the poor, needy or homeless.

First, God calls it dead faith to not help; a faith that is not alive, non-existent, not real. A false faith dressed up as someone who attends church or talks about God, but has no real relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Still don’t believe me? Check it out.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of
you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:14-18

Second, Christ says those who help the poor, needy or homeless are directly helping Christ and will be welcomed into His Kingdom.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

Third, God tells us what will happen to us, as believers, when our actions show that we care.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched
land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:6-11

Antoine Turner hasn’t had an easy life. He was born in New Orleans, but the family was forced to move when Hurricane Katrina hit. His mom died from cancer when he was 4 years old. His dad isn’t
involved in his life.

Turner needed a place to stay. He slept on park benches, and at other times in his girlfriend’s car, and, for about six months, he lived with his girlfriend’s parents and even an uncle, but both stays ended when the government told him he couldn’t stay any longer because of some heartless government regulation.

But some people reached out and did something about it and reminded me that helping the needy, poor or homeless touches God’s heart in a way that should move us to action.

Who is the Antoine Turner in your life? Is it a single person or a group of people? Identify them. Now, ask yourself if you’re doing anything about it?

If so, great!

If not, ask yourself why and read this from James 2 one more time: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?…In the
same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

If that doesn’t cause you to take action (or your heart to jump), check your pulse – and ask yourself why, if something is so close to God’s heart, it isn’t close to yours?

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Summer 2014 print issue. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt

Life In The Fast Lane

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Spread_Page_1

Peace eluded reigning Olympic and world 100-meter track champion even after she became a Christian, but now she has a “living faith” that keeps her grounded despite her wealth and recent success
on the track.

Pryce, Jamaica’s two-time Olympic gold medalist (100 meters, 2012 and 2008), five-time World outdoor track champion (2009, 2013 in various events) and 2014 World indoor track champion (60 meters), is running on the track and field circuit all over the world this summer.

Despite her hectic schedule and long stretches away from her home in Kingston, Jamaica, she makes it a priority to spend time with God every chance she gets. “One thing I carry with me is my Daily Bread everywhere I go,” says Fraser-Pryce. “On my phone is my Bible. I have plans on my phone, and it gives me a reminder every day to read my Bible. When I’m in Italy, I actually go to the church around the road from us. And in Italy, they speak no English, but I sit there and I do my own meditation, of course…it’s my moment to reflect on God.

“My pastor, my friends, they’re always texting me, or emailing me, or calling me…Christ is in everything that I do. I talk to Him every day. And I think that’s how I keep connected. Even when I’m running; when I finish running, if I come in second, third, fourth, fifth, I’m always saying, ‘Thank God’ in my head. You know, ‘Thank God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.’ When I get on my mark, you know, ‘On your mark. Get set.’ Before I get in the blocks, I’ve always repeated to myself that, ‘Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4) There’s no fear in Him because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) So I’m constantly reminded of who He is and what He’s doing. He’s everywhere.”

Fraser-Pryce, who was born on Dec. 27, 1986, in Kingston and became a Christian when she was 12, hasn’t always had a faith that was that strong, consistent, or clear. Despite success on the track, peace seemed far away.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Spread_Page_2

“In high school I kind of went off track because I wanted to be with my friends and be a part of a crowd,” she says. “It didn’t fit in with being a Christian, so I was out there. Then in 2008, I went to the Olympics and I won. And, you know, everything that I’d asked God for and I prayed about, I got it. I had the money, and I had everything that I really wanted, but I wasn’t contented. I wasn’t happy. In 2009 I won again, and I still wasn’t happy; there I had everything now, and was comfortable, but I wasn’t happy. And I knew something was missing, and I decided that it was time for me to go back into church. It was time for me to start living for Christ. And then I started doing that.

“Everything started to happen to kind of distract me from going back (to church), but I was very determined to go back. Since going back, I think that was the happiest decision I ever made in my life because a lot of people talk about Christ, and they talk about God, and they talk about the church, but I believe for a person to become a Christian you have to know and see God for yourself. Nobody can force you. And I think the fact that I wasn’t forced, and the fact that I saw Him for my own self, makes me an even stronger believer in Him.”

Her pastor agrees.

“We are proud of her whole stance. She’s just excited about the Lord and she realizes that it’s not her, it’s really God,” Penwood Church of Christ senior pastor Winston Jackson told Jamaican newspaper, The Gleaner. “You can see the change in her. You see a significant difference in how she talks about God. She’s much more excited about her Christianity, and she recognizes that this is a divine thing that’s happening to her.”

Fraser-Pryce, who stands only 5-feet tall, and weighs a mere 115 pounds, burst onto the world scene at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where, at 21, she became the first Caribbean woman to win the Olympic 100 meters. Four years later, at the 2012 London Olympics, she became the third woman to win two consecutive Olympic 100 meter crowns.

In between, she won the 100 meters at the 2009 World Championships, becoming only the second woman to hold both Olympic and World titles in the event (Gail Devers held both titles in 1992 and 1993). After the 2012 Olympics, Fraser-Pryce won 2013 World titles in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100-meter relay to become the first woman in World Championship history to accomplish the feat.

Even with all her success, she understands that world fame and wealth won’t give her what she really desires.

“Have you ever heard about the peace? That peace that passes all understanding? That’s what I’m striving for,” she says, referring to Philippians 4:7. “That’s what I didn’t have before because I had the money. I had everything. But then I was missing this peace. I finally have that peace that passes all understanding. So whenever it is that I’m training, I’m happy because I strive not after the things of this world, but of course the things of Christ. Because I think at the end of the day, that’s the ultimate for me.”

The peace she has is what she strives for despite the success, but she admitted the success allows her to help others even more, which is a driving force behind a grueling training schedule that has made her the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 100 meters (10.70 seconds).

“The reason He has blessed me to do the things that I am doing now, to compete, and to have the money, because when I am able to do these things, and to have the money, I’m able to help in many
ways that I can,” she says. “And when I’m able to do that, I feel more blessed than when I’m going on a podium to collect a gold medal. When I’m able to be back home, or it is that I give to a charity, or my foundation, or going back into my community, or helping a school, or helping a student pay their school fees, or pay tuition, or pay for books, I feel more blessed when I am able to do that. I think that’s one of the reasons He allows me to do the things that I do, because He understand the heart. The heart that He has given me is to always give back and to help.

“I’ve always learned to also be content in what I have. Because once you die, you can’t take it with you anyway. I like to give, and that’s my real motivation why I train so hard. Because when I work hard, and I do well, and I’m able to get the medal and to get the money, I’m able to help more people. And I think that’s where my motivation lies.”

Her faith allowed her to find the peace that eluded her for so long, and it also guided her to use the riches to help others, which is why she describes her faith as active.

“I think the most important part of my faith is the fact that it’s living,” she says. “It’s not only speaking but living. I think that’s most important, because you want persons to see you, and when they see you, they see Christ.”

Her pastor agreed, noting that it’s important for others to see that a famous person in any field can still walk with Christ.

“I hope she will serve as an example, not just for this area, but for all young people,” Jackson told The Gleaner. “So that way people can see that you can be in the limelight but still be able to function in your Christian walk.”

Adapted from an original interview with Norman Brierley for 2K Plus
International Sports Media. www.2kplus.org.uk, a partner with Sports
Spectrum magazine.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

Freddie Freeman: Potter and Clay

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“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; per- severance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Atlanta Braves 24-year-old star Freddie Freeman lost his mom to cancer more than 10 years ago when he was in his early teens. At first, he asked the question many ask when a loved one is lost: Why? Why did this happen? Why did she have to go so soon? Why? Why? Why?

Early on Freeman pushed God away, but a few years ago he came to the realization that God took his mom so she wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.

“My mom was in pain, and He took her to a nice place, and she’s not in pain anymore,” he told the Priority Magazine’s Robert Mitchell. “I finally truly believed that a couple of years later. Then I was just like, ‘I have to do this for Him because He did what’s best for my
mom.’ Faith plays into it a lot.”

Isaiah 45:9 also asks a great question in respect to asking God ‘Why?’: “Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?”

Trusting God that He knows what is best will get us through the difficult days. It won’t take away the pain, but it will, through His help, make the pain bearable and produce perseverance, character; and hope.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum. This devotional is taken from our most recent Training Table. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

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