The Free Gift of Salvation
I was born in Norfolk and lived most of my childhood in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Some of my earliest memories involved church services, church picnics and Christian school. Both my mother and father tried to live the Christian life to the best of their ability. My father was and still is a pastor and speaker for various Christian organizations including Fellowship of Christian Athletes. As a young boy I can remember our whole family taking trips every summer to various FCA camps where Daddy was the platform speaker for the week. These were our summer vacations until I graduated from high school.
I come from a very competitive sports-oriented family. My father, Ken, was a linebacker for the University of Maryland while my mother, Diana, was involved in synchronized swimming. I always wanted to grow up one day and play college football and be tough like my dad.
When I was about six years old I received this big teddy bear as a gift. The teddy bear was as tall as I was but bigger, and my dad would challenge me to “fight” the teddy bear. He would get behind the teddy bear with his 6’2”, 250 lbs. frame, pick it up, and engage it in battle with me. Needless to say, I was overmatched but I would fight the teddy bear with all my might and I would not go to bed until I had beaten the teddy bear, no matter how long it took. I would scream, “Daddy, you bring that teddy bear back out here!” And Daddy would bring it out for round two and let me win.
One night after I had beaten the teddy bear, Daddy and I knelt down to pray before bed and he asked me this question, “Benjamin, if you died tonight do you know what would happen to you?” I replied “no,” and Daddy proceeded to tell me about verse John 3:16 from the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Daddy explained to me that I was born a sinful person and that because God loves me, He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty of death that I deserved. All I had to do was receive the free gift of salvation that I could never earn on my own. Right then and there we prayed and I received that gift and made Jesus Lord of my life.
My life since that day has been an incredible journey. I have learned more and more what it means to live in the power and freedom that life in Christ brings. More importantly I've started to exercise and apply that knowledge in my everyday life. Through high school and college at the University of Georgia I stayed involved in FCA and a local church, but it wasn't without struggles and temptations. I can remember asking God for forgiveness a number of times, and I can say He forgave me every one of them. I always feel God’s presence, and my desire is to please Him. I do not always please Him but I know that in Him I am a conqueror and He has freed me from the guilt of past failures.
The number one thing He has taught me and continues to teach me is that it is not about me. God has a plan that sometimes doesn't match up to my plan. But I put my faith and trust in Him that he has my best interest at heart and all things will work together for His glory. It is a great comfort for me to know that my job is to be obedient to Him and the rest is in His hands. One of my favorite verses is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as unto the Lord, not for men.” Whether I'm playing football, being a husband to my wife, being a teammate, working out, studying or one day being a parent, this verse challenges me to do it all to the glory of God.
Written by Ben Watson, Tight End for the Cleveland Browns
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