Like so many of today's youth. I grew up with a passion for sports, and coming from the little town of Pistolthicket, Louisiana playing ball was all I really cared about since there wasn't much to do. Whatever was in season, that's what I did.
As a big Louisiana State University fan, I had no greater dream than to wear a Tiger football, baseball or basketball uniform. To me, playing any sport at LSU would be like playing pro ball.
That dream began to materialize in the seventh and eighth grades when my coaches discovered that I was better than most of the athletes I competed against. In high school I received all-state honors in football and basketball, and I also won the javelin event in the state track and field championships.
From there I moved on to LSU thanks to a football scholarship, and as it turned out I not only participated in the 1983 Orange Bowl and '85 Sugar Bowl in my three seasons as a starter, but I was also fortunate to play baseball all four years as a walk-on.
Better yet, my athletic career didn't end in college. On top of being offered a free-agent contract by the Dallas Cowboys, I was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1984 and the Seattle Mariners in '85. I decided to play baseball and started my professional career in the Mariners organization.
Staying at the major league level takes a lot of hard work, and as a pitcher that means getting hitters out, winning and saving ballgames and keeping my earned run average as low as possible. Those things are important because that's how I earn my living as a professional athlete, but I must tell you that baseball ranks third on my priority list behind my family and my relationship and my relationship with a loving and personal God.
Why is knowing God so important? Simple. Life can't be taken for granted. All the things we work so hard for -- material wealth, prestige, pleasure -- could be gone tomorrow. In fact, we have no guarantee of being alive tomorrow. It's a reality that strikes thousands unexpectedly every day. When death knocks on our door, the only issue that really matters is, "What have we done with Jesus Christ?" Based on the truth of God's Word -- the Bible, it will determine where we spend eternity!
I feel very fortunate and blessed to have come from a supportive home. Because I attended church, I learned at an early age that God really loves us and that He has a plan for our lives. As a young man I learned that God gives us a choice as to whether or not we want to serve Him. But I can't believe that anyone would be foolish enough to reject a person who loved us so much that He died on our behalf, and that through His resurrection, as accurately documented in the Bible, we have hope of eternal life in heaven.
That's why I said "yes" to Jesus Christ. When I asked Him to come into my heart, I not only received eternal life, but He also gave my life meaning, purpose and direction. With Him on my side, I'm a winner in the end -- guaranteed!
Do you want to be a winner? Do you want to succeed in the game of life? Do you want to reap eternal rewards and experience an abundant life here on earth filled with real joy, peace and strength to face the adversities that might come our way?
It's important to understand that Christianity (following Jesus Christ) is not just a religion filled with rituals. It's a personal relationship with the one true and loving God.
The Bible also tells us that we can't earn our way to heaven. It's a free gift, and all we have to do is accept it (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:9). Surrendering our lives to Christ is not something to be taken lightly. Christ can change our lives for the best and we will know with certainty that we'll spend eternity in heaven when we die.
But Christianity isn't about dying. It's about living, and we don't have to wait until death to reap the benefits of knowing Jesus Christ. As Christians, we can experience genuine peace knowing that God controls the circumstances surrounding our lives. And as we begin to honor Him in everything we do, God will fill our hearts with joy, and the Bible says, "The joy of the Lord is our strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)
Winning a World Series or throwing a no-hitter will never compare to the joy I find in serving Jesus Christ and making Him known to others. That's my purpose for living, and I pray that you will invite Christ into your life today. How? Confess the things that you've done wrong and ask for His forgiveness. Then ask Him to come into your life and begin to honor Him by reading the Bible, praying, and having fellowship with other Christians on a regular basis. "But to all who receive Him, who believe in His name, He gave power to become the children of God." (John 1:12)
If you would like to know more about Jesus and what He can do for you, just click the button on the left side of your screen to change your life.