From Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles to Olympic Medalists in PyeongChang, South Korea, Christian faith has regained a stronghold in the world of sports.
There’s little dispute that Christian athletes have always praised God for all things. Champions have routinely given thanks to Jesus Christ and then teammates, coaches, and family members among others. But the early years of the 21st Century became increasingly secularized in the United States, and Christians suffered unspeakable persecution in the Middle East, Africa and North Korea. The Christian dialogue seemed almost drowned out by anti-religious messaging — that is, until Christian athletes spoke proudly from their sports platforms.
One of the many sparks occurred in 2014, when the quarterback of the infamous Oakland Raiders praised God’s glory following his first NFL win. It would be an understatement to say a devout Christian leading a franchise of renegades and bad boys was something of a head-turner. But the rogue Raiders had adopted a Christian core led by QB Derek Carr that sent shockwaves across the sports world. They began winning again as a Christian-led organization.
The recent underdog Super Bowl win by the Philadelphia Eagles also has its roots firmly planted in Christian Faith. Like Carr, Eagles QB Carson Wentz turned heads by coming out as a devout Christian and the team began regular Bible study, prayer sessions and fellowship gatherings. When Wentz went down due to an injury, Nick Foles stepped in and leaned on Jesus for strength. His plan is to become a pastor after football. Faith was the Eagles game plan as they dethroned the New England Patriots.
Whether one spark or another illuminated the sports world is difficult to say, but the U.S. Olympic Team enjoys numerous devout competitors that are far from bashful about their Faith.
Maame Biney: She is the first African-American speed skater to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. Although the 18-year-old upstart was not considered a medal contender, she has her eyes on the 2022 games. “I want to start off by thanking God. I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Him,” she said.
Kelly Clark: Considered a legend in the snowboarding world, she earned a Gold Medal in the 2002 Olympic Games. Afterwards, she felt lost until finding peace by taking Jesus Christ as her lord and savior more than a decade ago. The 5-time Olympian and 3-time Gold Medalist has been an outspoken athlete for Christ. “You’ve got to fight for that connection with God all the time no matter what you’re going through in life,” Clark said.
Nick Goepper: After capturing a Bronze Medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Goepper faltered, became depressed and drank heavily. At his lowest point, he reportedly contemplated suicide until taking Jesus Christ into his heart. He recently returned to the Olympics to earn a Silver Medal and has this to say from his sports platform. “I kind of envision me skiing and God is kind of like an eagle right next to me screeching in my ear that everything is going to be all good. I just try my best and that’s all I can ask for.”
David Wise: The freestyle skier has been forthright about the importance of the Olympic success in his life. He says that the Olympics are “temporary” but faith and family are forever. In a recent pre-Olympic interview he said: “Everything that I have is a gift from God, and He can take it away when He wants to. I am surrounded by people who truly love and support me for who I am, not what I do on a pair of skis and not for any level of success I could attain.”
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim: Although the Olympic skaters and couple didn’t medal at the Winter Games, they became the first pair to land a rarely attempted “quad twist” maneuver. The married couple approaches competition from the perspective of Christian faith. “I have fans out there who know that I am a true believer in the Lord and I’m trying my best to shine his light and let people know that it’s okay to promote him and do things for him,” Alexa reportedly said. “Because in the Christian life, that’s kind of what we’re supposed to.”
Katie Uhlaender: Many are familiar with the speed of bobsledding and luge competition. Uhlaender competes in “Skeleton,” which entails laying on your stomach and rocketing down the track at upwards of 80 miles per hour… head first. She is the most accomplished Skeleton competitor in the world. Suffering 12 significant injuries during her 12-year career, she never once considered giving up sports or faith. “Quitting is never an option, so why would I quit on God,” she reportedly said. “He guides me and gives me the strength to keep going.”
It may be the case that the Christian athlete never stopped competing or fell from prominence. But, the dialogue these and other prominent athletes of faith are having with people all over the world has raised awareness about God, big league.
~ Liberty Planet