Top 10 Christian Stories of 2013

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees, Game 61. New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera’s retirement: With his head buried in Andy Pettitte’s shoulder, Mariano Rivera cried. It was his last home game at Yankee Stadium. The gratitude and emotions of the fans were what made Rivera’s retirement from baseball so special in each city he visited, culminating in his final home game at Yankee Stadium when longtime teammates Pettitte and Derek Jeter came to the mound to take him out of the game. The crowd applauded, chanted Rivera’s name and he came out for a curtain call—a great way to end a career that spanned 19 years and saw him earn a record 652 saves, make 14 All-Star Games and win five World Series.

Click here to watch Mariano Rivera’s last home game at the Yankee Stadium. 

2. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh winning the Super Bowl: The Baltimore Ravens rushed out to a 28-6 lead in Super Bowl XLVII before the lights went out, but the San Francisco 49ers came back to pull within 31-29. The 49ers, coached by John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, could get no closer, though, and the Ravens held on to win 34-31.

Click here to watch Super Bowl XLVII highlights. 

3. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson leading his team to the NFC’s best record: In two short years, Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to two playoffs, been named to two Pro Bowls and won Rookie of the Year (2012). For someone who is only 5-foot-11 (not an ideal size for an NFL quarterback) and was a third-round draft pick (and the sixth quarterback taken), he has exceeded expectations.

Click here to watch a Russell Wilson interview. 

4. Daniel Nava leading Boston Red Sox to recovery and the World Series: Daniel Nava may only have hit .143 in the World Series, but his biggest hit didn’t come in the postseason for the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. His biggest hit came on April 20 when he hit a three-run home run in the eighth to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead (and eventual 4-3 win) against the Kansas City Royals in the first major sporting event in Boston since the Boston Marathon bombings rocked the city on April 15. A simple victory provided joy and healing for a beloved city.

Click here to watch Daniel Nava’s three-run homer on April 20. 

5. Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen earning National League MVP: Andrew McCutchen’s stats were impressive: .317 batting average, 21 homers, 84 RBIs, 28 stolen bases, but the most endearing part to this story was that he won the National League MVP while helping the Pirates to their first winning season and their first playoff appearance since 1992, also the last time a Pirate player (Barry Bonds) had been named NL MVP.

Click here to watch Andrew McCutchen’s 2013 Highlights.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle earning National League Manager of the Year: The storylines in Pittsburgh didn’t end with McCutchen’s MVP and the playoff appearance. Pittsburgh Manager Clint Hurdle, in only his third season with the team, was named National League Manager of the Year after guiding the Pirates to a winning record and the postseason for the first time in 21 years. It was also the first year since 1992 that the Pirates manager had earned NL Manager of the Year.

Click here to watch Clint Hurdle humbled to be Manager of the Year. 

7. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw earning the National League’s Cy Young Award: Winning the National League Cy Young once would be amazing, but Clayton Kershaw won it for the second time in three years after finishing 16-9, posting a league-leading 1.83 ERA and helping his team to the playoffs and the National League West Division title.

Click here to watch Clayton Kershaw’s moving testimony. 

8. Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore leading her team to the WNBA title: Maya Moore is no stranger to titles after winning two NCAA national titles with Connecticut, a World Championship and an Olympic gold, but helping the Minnesota Lynx to its second title in two years after the team was one of the worst in the league before she was drafted by them, is remarkable. Add to that her WNBA Finals MVP and that she led the Chinese Basketball Association’s Shanxi Xing Rui Flame to a league title, and her year was one to remember.

Click here to watch Maya Moore’s Top 10 Plays. 

9. UCLA’s baseball team winning its first College World Series: UCLA pitchers James Kaprielian and Cody Poteet were just two of the Bruins players who helped UCLA to the school’s first College World Series title in school history. Amazing, considering that the storied athletic program had won 109 NCAA team titles before the baseball team won its first championship.

Click here to watch highlights of UCLA’s CWS victory. 

10. Lauren Holiday winning the National Women’s Soccer League’s MVP: In the league’s inaugural season, Lauren Holiday won the NWSL MVP after leading the league in goals (12), assists (9) and points, and she also started 10 games for the United States tying for the team lead in assists (6).

Click here to watch Lauren Holiday sharing her faith in an FCA video.

By Brett Honeycutt

This story was published in the January 2013 issue of Sports Spectrum magazine.

Devotional of the Week — Treasuring What Matters

Eric Heiden“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Winter Olympics great Eric Heiden was very practical in his view of gold medals. In essence, they’re nice to look at, but not very useful.

“I’d rather get a nice warmup suit. That’s something I can use. Gold medals just sit there. When I get old, maybe I could sell them if I need the money,” said Heiden, winner of five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

He understood the triviality of the medals, which are much like the trivial nature of wealth or stockpiling things because we just have to have them. When it came down to it, Heiden needed equipment to train more than he needed the medals. And when it comes down to worldly things compared to spiritual things, we should see the disparity between the two and store up treasures in heaven. As Matthew 6 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

By Brett Honeycutt, Sports Spectrum

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

Airing It Out — Why the NFL matters

Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans

 

 

Sports are popular in America.

How popular? Of the top 50-most watched television programs in America in 2013, 45 were sporting events. Of those top 50 programs, the top 26, and 42 of the top 50, were NFL games.

The rest of the top 50 were the BCS National Championship Game (No. 27), NBA Finals Game 7 (No. 29), NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game (No. 39) and five episodes of NCIS (ranking anywhere from No. 40 to No. 50).

To put that in perspective, 84 percent of the top 50 most-watched television programs were NFL games.

And to put it in even greater perspective, the three most-watched NFL games (the Super Bowl at 108.69 million, and the AFC and NFC Championship games at 47.71 million and 42 million, respectively), combined pulled in 198.4 million viewers and outdid the eight other non-NFL games, which had 14 million less viewers at 185.04 million.

The highest rated non-NFL game (the BCS National Championship Game) drew 26.38 million viewers (or less than a fourth of the Super Bowl and about half of the NFL’s AFC Championship game)

In sports terms, anyway you look at the numbers, the comparison was an annihilation, no contest, a rout, etc.

Seems like no sport (or television program) captures a nation’s attention like the NFL, which brings me to what’s happening for the next five weeks – the NFL playoffs.

I love the playoffs and so do the majority of sports fans in America as the statistics prove. In fact, statistics also show that the NFL wasn’t just popular in 2013; it has been popular each year for a while – and it keeps building.

According to television numbers, the top four, and nine of the top-10 most watched programs in U.S. history, are Super Bowls. The only exception in the all-time list was the last episode of MASH, which ranks No. 5 (until Feb. 2 when it likely will fade to No. 6 after this year’s Super Bowl vaults ahead of it as the last four Super Bowls have since 2010).

It’s a sign of the times.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it does prove that people enjoy watching the NFL and especially the Super Bowl.

Christians can view this several ways, with one being that too much attention is being paid to sports, specifically football, or that, although too much attention is being paid to sports, especially football, that believers who play this sport have a platform like no other person can have in the United States.

When their platforms are used to honor God or bring glory to Him in some way, they have a platform that is broader than pastors, evangelists and common people like you and me. But, their platform doesn’t replace pastors, evangelists or ordinary people who share a faith in Christ. We have a platform, as well, but it’s different. And their platform actually helps us by providing a segue into sharing our faith with a culture that is crazy about sports, and the NFL in general.

In the pages that follow, you will find those athletes, specifically football players (one from each of the 12 playoff teams) who have committed their lives to Christ and have been impacting others by sharing their faith.

Not all of them will be able to win the Super Bowl, the prize they all strive for each season, but all are winners in God’s eyes because they follow Christ.

By Brett Honeycutt

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

Devotional of the Week — Getting Up When You Fall

Detriot Lions v Washington Redskins“Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that’s the end of them.” Proverbs 24:16

A year after John Elway drove the Denver Broncos to victory in the AFC Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns, the two teams met again to see who would go to the Super Bowl.

Late in the game, with a little more than 1 minute left, it appeared that Cleveland running back Earnest Byner would tie the game, but the ball was stripped from his hands at the 2-yard line, Denver recovered, and the Broncos held on for the victory in one of the greatest games in AFC/NFC Championship history.

Unfortunately, Browns fans remember Byner for what they called “The Fumble” instead of his solid years as a running back for Cleveland.

Byner, though, didn’t wallow in his misery. After being released by the Browns the following season, he spent five years with the Washington Redskins, won two Super Bowls and was named one of the franchise’s 70 Greatest Redskins. He played for the Browns again in 1994-95 and then, ironically, ended his career in 1996-97 for the Baltimore Ravens (the team that was moved from Cleveland by owner Art Modell in 1996).

Byner didn’t let failure keep him down. His career is a great reminder of that, and that when we fall, we should get back up.

By Brett Honeycutt, Sports Spectrum

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

Airing It Out — From Africa with love and encouragement

Women with BetsyAs I spoke to LPGA legend and World Golf Hall of Famer Betsy King recently, I was encouraged.

I was encouraged by what she’s doing in Africa to help the people spiritually and physically through her organization, Golf Fore Africa, and through a partnership with World Vision.

But I was even more encouraged that 30 years after she was featured in the first issue of Sports Spectrum (then known as Sports Focus), she is still walking with Christ.

Back then, she talked about the pressures of playing at an elite level and what she had learned through her relationship with Christ. Previously, she had felt down on days when she played poorly, but when she became a Christian in 1980, she began to grow in her faith.

“I learned that God doesn’t love me any more because I shoot 68, or any less because I shoot 80,” she told us then. She said a relationship with Christ “gets your life back in perspective and (helps you) realize that golf is just a temporary thing. I need to be concerned about my spiritual life and what’s going to happen for eternity.”

Thirty years later, she continues to stay focused on keeping the right perspective by focusing on her spiritual life and eternity.

I’ll have more on what she’s doing now with Golf Fore Africa and as a player on The Legends Tour in a later issue.

What hit me as I listened to her talk about all that had happened the past 30 years and as she shared her heart about Africa, was that she was still as passionate (and maybe even more so) about her faith and passionate about helping people see Christ in a real and tangible way. Not just through words or Bible verses, but through her actions.

To say that someone is still walking with Christ 30 years later (or is as passionate as they were 30 years down the road) may not sound revelatory, but it is encouraging.

As I combed through the magazine looking at the stories of the athletes we had featured and then looking them up and reconnecting with them to see what they were doing now, I was even more encouraged.

I read about former NFL great (and actor) Rosey Grier, former major leaguer Alvin Davis, former NHL great Mike Gartner, former NFL journeyman John Reaves, the first Ms. Olympia, Rachel McLish, and others.

I found some struggles, and triumphs, but all had continued to walk with the Lord.

Throughout this year, we will revisit those athletes (and more) from that first issue and share their stories of where they were then, what has happened since and what they are doing now.

You will also hear from past editors and publishers of the magazine, which began as Sports Focus in 1985, was renamed New Focus in 1986 and then Second Look in 1987, before finally settling on a name that stuck, Sports Spectrum, near the end of 1990.

They will share their thoughts of their time with Sports Spectrum then and their insight on the world of sports and faith now.

It will be a walk down memory lane in a way, but more than anything it will be a celebration of 30 years of the magazine and a celebration of the faithfulness of people who continue to take their walk with Christ just as serious as they did when they were in the limelight 30 years ago.

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in the December 2013 DigiMag and Vol. 28, No. 1 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

A Favored Life

IdonijeSpreadThe player with the most improbable road to the NFL has a life so diverse that even a comic book would have difficulty capturing the superhero-like life of Israel Idonije.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, to missionaries on Nov. 17, 1980, Idonije (pronounced eh-don-ish-aye) moved with his family to Brandon, Manitoba in Canada when he was four years old.

His father, Henry, served the homeless and poor in Manitoba, modeling the life Israel now leads by serving people on two continents and in three countries as he helps others in the U.S., Canada and Nigeria through the Israel Idonije Foundation.

That Israel also owns a business, Blessed Communion, which has made it easier for churches to take communion, makes the super hero narrative seem real.

Until you find out that Israel has a comic book called “The Protectors” and that he’s also a comic book character. Then you realize you really are dealing with a super hero – in real life and through the pages of a comic.

Even Israel’s name shows some type of supernatural tilt.

“‘Israel’ was the name given to Jacob after he wrestled with God,” he says. “There are a number of different meanings or variations given. ‘He would have peace with God and man’ or ‘He who wrestles with God’ or ‘Child of God’ or ‘Soldier of God.’”

“The translation that I hold most is ‘Peace with God and man’ or ‘He who has found favor with God and man.’…I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life. I’ve been blessed to have favor with my fellow humans. Without question, God has shown his favor in my life.”

And who can argue, considering everything that has happened in Israel’s life?

Road to the NFL

If Israel Idonije’s life isn’t unbelievable enough and a demonstration of God’s favor and fortune, his road to the NFL only enhances the narrative.

After moving to Canada, Israel didn’t play football until he was in the 12th grade – and even then he didn’t want to play.

“Football was never something that I aspired to do,” he admits. “I loved basketball as a child; it’s what I wanted to play.”

He was a counselor at a YMCA camp, where he ran a youth/leadership program, when his boss, Kevin Grindey, approached him about playing for his high school team.

“He said, ‘Come on and play.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to play football.’ He said, ‘Come out and the worst-case scenario is you would be in great shape for basketball.’ So I went out and I played.

From there, Grindey encouraged Israel to play for the provincial team, which is like the state team. Israel said he would think about it, but Grindey told him to talk to his parents.

“I never spoke with my parents,” Israel admits.

Grindey ended up calling Israel’s mother, Choice. He asked her if Israel had told her about the opportunity and that he had set Israel up with a tryout for the provincial team.

“No, he never told us anything about it.” Choice said.

“I didn’t tell her because I really didn’t want to go,” Israel recalls. “So, against my will, she drove me two and a half hours. I did not want to go to the tryout. She talked the whole way. I did not talk to her. I was not happy.”

But at the camp, Israel’s competitive side kicked in. Not wanting to be embarrassed, he “played hard, ran around, did the drills, did the exercises, and I made the team.”

It helped, because University of Manitoba head coach Brian Dobie was watching, and Israel ended up receiving a scholarship to play football there.

During Israel’s final season, a scout from the Cleveland Browns called and was interested in another player when he asked Dobie if there was anyone else he should see.

“Oh, actually, there is this kid, Israel Idonije,” Dobie said. “He is very rough, he doesn’t know the game well, but you should take a look at him.”

A concern about a SAARS outbreak kept most of the scheduled NFL scouts away the day Israel was going to practice. The only one team that showed up was the Browns.

“He pulled his car up on the field and watched me practice, and he said, ‘Hey, I think you can play in the NFL.’” Israel recalls. “And I ended up signing a free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns. There’s been favor after favor after favor on me, and if I were to say this was my plan, or if this is what I had planned all along, it would not be the truth.

IdonijeSpread2

Faith and Football

Fast forward to 2013 and Israel is a 10-year NFL veteran. He spent his first nine years with Chicago (he only made Cleveland’s practice squad and never played in a game in 2003) and this season with Detroit.

Along the way, he has had a modest career. He led the NFL in blocked punts and field goals in 2005, 2006, and 2007, he was on the 2006 Chicago Bears team that played in Super Bowl XLI, he won the 2009 Ed Block Courage Award (voted by teammates who see nominees as role models of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage), and he was named to USA Today’s 2012 All Joe Team (for unsung heroes who have never made a Pro Bowl).

“It has truly been divine intervention, and a plan, that has, from Day One, been much bigger than me,” Israel says about his time in the NFL. “I’m just trying to do my part, continue to work hard, see the opportunities that arise when they’re in front of me so I can do what I’m supposed to do; do the right things, make the right decisions. Have the impact I’m supposed to have and just continue on the journey.

“To me, football has been a microcosm of real life,” Israel reflects. “Personalities in the locker room just reflect the bevy of personalities in our world, in our communities. What your faith does for you is it brings peace, it brings balance in the midst of those challenges. At your absolute worst, you lean on your faith and you understand that you haven’t been brought this far to lose or to be disappointed or to be let down, because ultimately God has a plan for everybody’s life. And in the time of your success, where everything is at the best, it’s kind of easy to lose your head. What does your faith do for you in those circumstances? It helps you to remember and realize, its’ not by your power and by your might, it’s ultimately by the grace of God that you can have that success…So whether you’re at your worst or at your best, your faith brings that balance to your life and that perspective, that regardless of what it is, up or down, you’re not alone.”

Comic Book Super Hero

In 2007, looking for a different approach to training camp, Israel wrote a story called, The Protectors. It was the basis for what would become a comic book.

“It was a story of athletes who come together to save the world,” Israel says. “These humans were given this gift to save humanity from this evil force that controls earth through religion, through media and through government. And the humans on earth don’t know it.”

“The deceptors are the evil characters that come to earth, assume human form, and become these powerful leaders. Ultimately their goal is to subjugate humanity and to control humans and make humans their subjects to worship for their evil deeds.”

“The one who created earth originally, comes to earth and basically gives humans a spark that allows them the ability to defend and protect.”

The character that Israel created to resemble him is named Isaac Chike, a football player.

“At the core of the story, the message is that regardless of who you are, where you come from, that every single one of us, we each have a gift within us, we each have been given a gift, and it’s up to us to make the right decision. The tagline is, join the fight. It means that you’re going to stand for what is good, what is right. You’re going to make the right decisions. You’re going to live on the right path; you’re going to do those right things.”

“At the core, the comic book is about how everyone can unlock your own gift,” Israel says. “And understanding that you have a gift, you have ability.”

IdonijeSpread3

Serving Others

After coming from Nigeria, his father, Henry, had such a heart to feed the homeless and poor that he would go to grocers and ask for food that they couldn’t sell any longer so that they would at least have something.

Henry made soup and sandwiches and went under bridges to feed homeless people.

“That’s what he did,” Israel recalls. “That was his calling, that’s his passion.”

Israel’s mother taught him that “your perspective will carry you through those challenging times. And your faith is really what’s going to shape that perspective. When you’re rooted in faith, your perspective is completely different than someone who does not have that foundation or stability.”

Israel has taken ownership of those lessons and parlayed them into The Israel Idonije Foundation, which reaches out in Chicago, Winnipeg and in parts of West Africa – two continents and three nations.

Idonije has taken Jesus’ command of going into all the world seriously.

“When it comes to service,” Israel says. “The message is, ‘Do what you can with what you have.’ I have just been fortunate.”

He uses five core skills, Self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision making and effective communication.

“Over the past five, six years, we’ve built water wells, we’ve done mobile clinics, we’ve built clinics, we’ve done youth empowerment programs, stressing the importance of education, to get them from where they are to a better place.”

“If we’re able to touch one life and make a difference in one life, and that person goes forward and does incredible and great things, it was all worth it.”

Looking Ahead

As if Israel didn’t have enough going on, in 2009 he formed Blessed Communion, a company that sells dual-chambered, pre-filled communion cups and wafers.

It’s an efficient and affordable way for churches to take communion and commemorate The Lord’s Supper.

“It was really not something I was looking at getting into,” Israel says. “I knew that I needed to start preparing for life after football, regardless of what it might be, and I was looking at trying to start some things.”

It wasn’t success at first try, though.

“It was extremely challenging,” he recalls. “There was a point where we were going to say, ‘Cut it loose and let’s move onto something else.’ But we just stayed focused and steadfast and things turned and things got better. The business grew and more clients came on board. The business has been an incredible blessing.”

“Even though 10 years in the NFL is a long time, my NFL chapter is closing in my life,” Israel says. “There’s still so much to experience. I truly believe there is still so much journey to be had. I’m excited about everything God has done in my life, and that He is doing currently in my life, and the things that are still yet to come.”

“With everything I’ve been blessed with and everything I’ve been given and fortunate to have an opportunity to be a part of, I just feel that it’s important that I do what I can with what I have. And this saying holds true, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’ and I believe that. So here I am, in the NFL, the greatest platform, in year 11, I just try to continue to impact my community and impact lives around me the way I can, and hope to continue to shine a light and impact lives.”

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine.

NFL Closeup — Nick Foles

FolesSpreadIt’s been a bit of a roller coaster in Philadelphia this season for Nick Foles, but once he established himself as the Eagles’ starter, it’s been a ride he’s enjoyed.

After starting quarterback Michael Vick was sidelined with an injury, Foles took over until he was injured, as well. Vick was injured again and the seeming merry-go-round continued.

But the last time Foles took over, things began to click.

Since getting his first start on Oct. 13, a 31-20 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth game of the season, he has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

During his third start this season, a 49-20 victory against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 3, Foles passed for 406 yards and tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes.

A month later, on Dec. 8 in the snow (left), despite passing for only 179 yards and one touchdown, the Eagles beat Detroit 34-20. Even though the statistics weren’t as impressive as the Nov. 3 game, he kept the Eagles in the hunt for the division title.

“I knew the good Lord was going to guide me and give me the strength to heal and get back on the right path,” said Foles during an interview with Philadelphia’s SportsRadio 94 WIP concerning his first injury.

That injury came during a 17-3 loss to Dallas on Oct. 20, and also knocked him out of the following game.

“My mom was out here for the game and my little sister. So they were able to stay with me. I’m very thankful to have a great mom to help me get better…I just rested and got some home cooking and the good Lord healed me.”

His next game was the 406-yard, seven-touchdown effort.

“I’m a Christian and I believe in God,” Foles told the radio show. “…and when you do great, you stay humble and you give Him glory.”

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine.

Airing It Out — Let your actions speak

Texas A&M Spring Football Game“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2

Johnny Manziel, you don’t have to point fingers and brag.

You’re good enough, I promise.

You don’t have to prove it to a defender or remind them how good you are by yelling and pointing at them after running and passing the ball over them into the end zone.

You’re accomplished. Everyone knows it. Heck, you won the Heisman Trophy, the game’s and media’s acknowledgement of how great you are. And you won it as a freshman – the first time that ever happened. How much more accomplished can you be in college football?

Everyone knows how great you are. Stop telling them. You don’t need to do that.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, future Hall of Famers and two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in history, they don’t say anything because, like you, people already know how good they are. Their play, like yours, is enough to convince even the most casual viewer. And even though they don’t run after a player and jaw with them, all the players, and fans, know how great they are.

Why? Because greatness doesn’t need a megaphone. It just needs to be observed.

Observe how Brady calmly goes about his business. Down seven in the fourth quarter with less than 3 minutes to play? No problem. Interception? No problem. He got the ball back at his own 30 with 1:13 to play and guided his team to a touchdown with 5 seconds left and an improbable 30-27 victory against New Orleans on Oct. 13. Calm, cool, and no screaming and pointing at the opposing team telling them he’s the best. They know. They just experienced it firsthand.

Manning? He might not look as calm (watch his head and feet late in the game), but he still lets his play do the talking. He may be yelling, but it’s so his team can hear him changing the plays at the line of scrimmage. Trailing in the fourth quarter? No problem. His Denver Broncos trailed the Dallas Cowboys twice and were tied twice in the fourth quarter of a shootout on Oct. 6. With 1:57 to play, he did what everyone in the stadium (and everyone watching on TV) knew he could (and probably would) do; he guided his team down the field, set the Broncos in position for a field goal, and Denver won 51-48.

Manning’s stats were great (414 yards and 4 TDs passing and 1 TD rushing), but he didn’t run down the sideline, his pointer finger in the other teams’ face, and yelling at them, so they would know how great he played that day. They already knew his greatness… before, during and after the game.

It’s a reminder that being humble is okay. People won’t overlook you or forget about you. They’ll remember how great you are and also view you in a positive light as a person.

As Proverbs 27:2 implies, people already know if you’re great and they’ll tell others about your talents. Consider Jesus, even. When Pilate asked him to prove he was the Savior to humanity, Jesus found no need to flaunt his divinity, though He could have.  Jesus found no need to convince Pilate He was great because His greatness had already been displayed to thousands. If Pilate didn’t believe it, it was his own lack of faith that fueled his unbelief. Jesus’s entire ministry—His actions, His words, His miracles—proved His greatness.

Johnny, you need only let your actions speak for you.

I promise.

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in the November 2013 DigiMagBrett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt

NFL Closeup: Josh McCown

San Diego Chargers  v Chicago Bears

From the backup quarterback in the NFL to high school quarterbacks coach to starting quarterback in the NFL, Josh McCown has taken the unconventional route back to pro football.

But he was ready for whatever God had for him.

“There are paths that cross in your life that are out there; you don’t even know they are coming,” he said in a My Story video by the ministry, The Increase. “What are you going to do when you get them? And are you going to join God in His mission or are you just going to miss or are you going to be so consumed with what (you have) going on that (you) miss what you can do with Him?”

McCown’s career  began in 2002 with the Arizona Cardinals, but he has never played a full season. After getting in only two games in 2008 and one game in 2009 (both seasons with the Carolina Panthers), he played in the United Football League in 2010 with the Hartford Colonials and had the league’s highest passer rating.

No NFL team came calling, though.

“My prayer and my desire was to be in the locker room, so I go through that whole offseason and, again, the phone doesn’t ring,” McCown said in the My Story video. “So, I said, you know what, I’ve got to do something besides sit on my hands and wait; I need to get out there and serve.”

He volunteered to coach quarterbacks at Marvin Ridge High School, just outside of Charlotte, N.C.

“That was one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever had,” he said of his time there in 2011 and 2012.

Just after the 2011 high school season ended in a playoff run in November, Chicago called McCown because of an injury to starter Jay Cutler.

McCown played three games near the end of that season, but returned to Marvin Ridge to coach quarterbacks in 2012 after being cut again.

Once again, Chicago called in November and signed McCown as a backup because of another injury to Cutler. Although McCown didn’t play that season, he started this season as a backup with Chicago and took over the starting job about midway through this season because of another injury to Cutler.

“We get scarred and we get hurt because what we expected did not happen,” McCown said. “When I sit in my quiet moments, I say I want to please God, my heart is to please God, and there’s gotta be faith involved, and there’s gotta be things and elements in my life where I can’t see what’s coming next. If anything, it has encouraged me to push myself in those moments as much as I can.”

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. This story was published in the November 2013 DigiMag.

Airing It Out — Sharing our hope

(Originally published in Sports Spectrum’s April 2013 DigiMag)

We heard the same sermon twice on the Wednesday night we went to West Monroe, La.—and both were unexpected.

We had just finished our interview with Miss Kay, Al, Willie and Phil Robertson, cast from the popular TV show, Duck Dynasty. It was interesting listening to Phil talk about sex and relationships, Willie talk about his early days when he and his wife, Korie, ran a Christian camp, Al add nuggets to almost every story, and Miss Kay laugh and talk honestly about her relationship with Phil in the early days (it was tough) and how God had brought each of them to Christ.

It was as if we were part of the Duck Dynasty TV show. Why? Because what we had seen on TV, is what we saw in person. It was refreshing and also spiritually uplifting because their deep faith was evident as they talked about how they viewed the show as a platform to share their faith—and, as I learned, sharing their faith is what they’re about.

After we were finished, Miss Kay invited us to church. I was already looking forward to going (Al had already invited us earlier when we were setting up the interview).

I was excited because I enjoy going to church, but I was really excited because they invited us and because of what I knew about the Robertsons’ faith (and had also just experienced); my thought was since they’re strong spiritually, then their church, White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, must be strong, as well.

But the idea of going to church was made even better because they invited us. It was personal. It showed they cared. They wanted us to be there, and we wanted to be there.

We were running a little behind because the Robertsons were gracious enough to give us more time to ask questions. We really just listened and watched them interact like they do on TV.

Because of that, we came in to the service near the beginning. There were a hundred or two hundred people there, including all of the Robertsons (we sat behind Jep and his wife, Jessica, and Justin Martin).

The songs we sang and listened to were a cappella and familiar because I had heard them on my first mission trip with Athletes in Action in 1992 (I later bought tapes of those songs and have enjoyed them for years). The songs brought back great memories, but more than that they reminded me of who God is, what He had and has done for us, and they were leading me to worship Him.

I began to wonder if the sermon would be as good. It was faulty thinking because God is always present when His Word is opened and shared, but that was what was going through my mind.

The pastor, Mike Kellett, came up to preach. The sermon was based on I Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

He talked about “The Hopeful Community” and sharing our faith. But instead of saying “sharing our faith,” he appropriately said, “sharing our hope.”

He talked about the false narrative that only certain people can share their faith and listed reasons people think this: I am not good at it; I am embarrassed to try; I am afraid I will offend someone; I feel like a hypocrite because I am not perfect; I am afraid they will reject me; I am not educated enough.

But he reminded us that the true narrative was that all Christians share their faith, and he reminded us of “The Story That Inspires Hope”—Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and return.

And then he talked about “Hope in Action,” referencing Romans 12:10-18 and II Corinthians 2:15, and “Hope in Words,” referencing I Peter 3:15-16.

He concluded by encouraging each of us to pray, watch, reach out, listen, connect, share and invite so that we could share the hope that we have because of Christ. He did so much for us and we have so much to look forward to after this life. Why wouldn’t we be excited to tell others?

I knew the message had sunk in, not because I thought or felt it had, but because it was already being lived out in the members of the church. It’s exactly what the Robertsons have been doing with their lives—sharing their hope with excitement and immediacy to a world in desperate need of hearing something that is truly life-changing.

I walked away encouraged, hopeful, and thinking that we had just gotten out of one church service (our interview with the Robertsons, who talked about sharing their faith) and went into another one (at White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, which talked about sharing our faith).

It is the type of hope we all should desire to spread.

By Brett Honeycutt

This column was published in the April 2013, All-Duck Dynasty DigiMagBrett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt

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