I recently read about Christian Ballard and I was shouting by the end of the article. Ballard played in the NFL for two years and recognized that he was becoming selfish and was developing an air of superiority. He left the Minnesota Vikings on August 18 and got married a couple of weeks later. He acknowledged that there were many strong believers of Christ in the NFL who were able to maintain who they were at the core; he just couldn’t pull it off. The transition will be tough for him, at 24 years old, but I believe God will bless his efforts to be a good husband and a present and active father. Ballard doesn’t rule out a return to the league (teams will always need defensive lineman with experience) but for now, he has recognized a need greater than money – a need for God and His priorities. (Fantasia told us that sometimes you have to lose to win again.)
Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (you may know them by the names given to them by the Babylonians; Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) were Israelite royalty and were taken into captivity with their people by the Babylonians. The guys were identified as young men of royal descent who were without “any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. . . . . The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service” (Daniel 1:4-5). Well, you know how that went; Daniel struck a deal for them to eat according to their own beliefs and they entered the king’s service healthier than their counterparts. “At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. . . . In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. They were favored and Daniel became a trusted advisor” (Daniel 1:18-20). God used the tests and trials of the young men to open the eyes of others and to draw others to Himself. (Do the lion’s den and the fiery furnace ring any bells?).
In the midst of prosperity, Christian Ballard had to let it go and, in the midst of captivity, Daniel and his friends found favor and were able to thrive. If we make steps toward God, we will be rewarded with His favor. He will take care of intermingling circumstances, intersecting paths and the timing that is so hard to master alone. Michael Dwayne Vick was written off by many after the stupidity that landed him in prison and away from football for two years. Vick’s dog-fighting escapades and his arrogance left him broke and publicly shamed. But during that time, God dispatched some earthly angels to counsel with him and to help him map out his goals and regain his stability. After God got his attention, He was able to bless him.
Andy Reid was convinced that Vick had value and could help his Philadelphia Eagles team win. He felt that they could handle the circus that would surely come with Vick’s signing, if the front office would just allow him to coach while they handled the other stuff (no easy trick after the whole Terrell Owens debacle). What Andy could not have known is that God was about to work some things out for the man who had come clean before Him and had clawed his way back into His presence. In 2009, Vick signed a two-year contract with the Eagles. At the time, he was the third-team quarterback. By the end of that season, Reid had made the decision to move on from Donovan McNabb. Kevin Kolb was slated as the starter for the 2010 season; Vick his backup. One week into the season, Kolb suffered a concussion that allowed Vick to step back into the starting role and solidify his presence there, in the midst of a declining win-loss record. Andy Reid was forced on the knife in response to the declining record and many questioned if Michael Vick would be able to maintain his starting role as quarterback, under a different coach. He has and, thus far, he has been magnificent while doing so. God’s favor is awesome and His grace is amazing! There are tremendous benefits for those who abide in His presence – no matter what (Job showed us that). Are you abiding – no matter what?