My favorite NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys. My second favorite team is whoever is playing the Philadelphia Eagles. After that, I tend not to care too much who wins any particular game, and that includes this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
I’m still going to gather with family to watch the game—for more on how to use the Super Bowl to cultivate community, see Christian Englert’s recent article—but the outcome isn’t nearly as important to me as the competitiveness of the game, the quality of the commercials, and how much I can eat before a new champion is crowned.
Given that relative degree of apathy regarding the teams on the field, I find myself focusing more on the players, particularly those who seem to have a strong relationship with the Lord.
And, it turns out, there are quite a few players and team personnel on both sidelines who are Christians.
A great cloud of witnesses
Paul Bond has a great article up at Newsweek that profiles several of the Christians in Super Bowl LVIII as well as the efforts of groups like He Gets Us to once again use the Super Bowl as a platform for sharing the gospel.
For today, though, I’d like to focus on two in particular:
- Brock Purdy, QB for the 49ers
- Harrison Butker, K for the Chiefs
They are far from the only Christians playing on Sunday. For example, I read about:
- the faith of RB Christian McCaffrey
- the legacy of devotion in Arik Armstead
- the public witness of QB Patrick Mahomes
- the servant leadership of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt
Learning more about these men will encourage your faith as well.
But the stories of these players in particular stuck out to me this week.
The faith of Brock Purdy
In a recent interview with Hall of Fame QB Steve Young, Brock Purdy discussed the role of faith in his life and the impact it’s had on his career.
Purdy was the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft—granting him the ignominious title of “Mr. Irrelevant”—and only became the 49ers starting quarterback after a litany of injuries to the players ahead of him last season. Despite that beginning, though, he’s become one of the game’s most promising young players and would have been the starter in last week’s Pro Bowl if he hadn’t had a slightly more important game to prepare for this Sunday.
Yet, Purdy is clear on who gets the credit for his quick rise toward stardom:
“That’s all God,” adding that the Lord’s plan is “bigger and more beautiful than I could ever imagine. I’m just going to show up every day, work hard and see where he takes me. So I’m very thankful for it, man, but did I ever expect all this kind of stuff? I didn’t. I had no idea, so (I) just try to show up, do my job every day and it falls in the place it needs to.”
Elsewhere in the interview, he stated, “I know who I am, and ‘God, if you want me to do great with (football), great. If not, all right, let’s go do something else, wherever you need me.’”
And that perspective is something Harrison Butker talked about also.
The resilience of Harrison Butker
Like Purdy, Chief’s kicker Harrison Butker also experienced a great deal of success early in his career, winning his first of two Super Bowls in his third season in the league.
But, as he told Sports Spectrum, “If I didn’t have faith in God, I don’t think I’d be the father I am, the husband I am, the kicker I am. That kind of sets the tone for everything else and everything falls under that, but that gives me the strength to go do everything I need to do.”
He went on to say:
“I may have fears about it — I might have pressure — but I know I’m a child of God and He’s gonna protect me. And maybe that protection comes with some suffering, but that’s what’s best for me and I gotta accept that suffering and grow as best I can with that. . . . You miss some kicks and you realize, ‘OK, my identity can’t be all as a football player.’ So I grew a lot in my prayer life knowing that I’m nothing without Him and I gotta lean on Him, and if He wants to take anything away from me, He can. And if He wants to add anything, He can. It’s all up to Him.”
How to find peace in chaos
What stuck out to me about the testimonies of Brock Purdy and Harrison Butker was the way both talked about the importance of finding their identity in Christ rather than in football. Moreover, they point to that identity as a key part of their success. They aren’t great players in spite of their faith but because of their faith.
That’s not to say you have to be a Christian to be a great athlete or a success in any other walk of life. Examples abound of people who have achieved the highest levels of earthly success without giving a second thought to the Lord.
Yet, it’s interesting how both Purdy and Butker credit their faith with helping them stay level headed in the midst of the chaos that surrounds them each game. They find peace in the knowledge that their worth is not tied up in the outcome of any given play, regardless of the stakes.
And there’s a lot we can learn from their example.
Ground your identity in God
Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount by cautioning his disciples that the only way to weather the storms of life successfully is by building on the foundation of his word. Those “words” to which he refers point back to the holistic teachings he’d delivered across the previous three chapters.
The best way to approach life is by grounding our identity in who God says we are and making sure that he is Lord over every facet of our lives. It won’t keep the storms from coming, but it will ensure that we can weather them well.
Purdy said, “I know who I am.” Butker said, “I know I’m a child of God.”
Do you know who and whose you are today?