In highschool, playing football was where it was at. Being a part of the program meant you were well respected by peers and teachers alike. Football was important to me..but was it worth my religious beliefs? The work ethic was critical, and the high expectations made no room for mediocre effort. Being athletic gave you an advantage, but it all came down to how much you loved the sport.
Having no football background, I found it hard to be as committed as most of my fellow players. This made me feel I had to work hard to show the coaches that I meant business even though I was new to the game.
I would workout every morning, whether or not I was the only one going to be in the weight room. When the maxing day came around I was stronger than a lot of the players that had been stronger than me just 5 months earlier. The coaches recognized my efforts and moved my position to DE. I was then the fastest in my position and also had the highest vertical on my team. I never missed a practice- even when I was sick or had minor injury. I practiced hard because I knew it would all pay off when it was time to play under the Friday night lights.
All along a spiritual battle raged within me. If I wanted to be successful in my sport I knew it would require breaking the Sabbath.
I had knowledge of the truth, but would I stand up for what I believed in? I struggled with this question because I didn’t want to give up football. I wanted my will to be done, but what about God’s will? He was the one who had sacrificed His own Son on the cross for me. I knew all the talents I’ve ever developed were not mine but instead blessings given to me from God.
The Devil had been trying to get my life off track that whole year. I had been making bad choices as an attempt to fill my emptiness. I had also been so focused on my own goals that I left no time to build my relationship with God.
My mom saw my struggles and she suggested I go on a mission trip that summer called : “Ultimate Workout” it was to take place in Ecuador. I didnt even want to go at first and I underestimated what the experience would be like.
When i came back, my life had been changed. I valued my faith more because I realized that God was everything I needed. I had a better understanding of God’s love, and I became more secure and bold about who I am in Christ. Being able to relate to other Adventist youth from all over America made me feel I was at home. We developed strong connections with each other within the two weeks we were there.
I still had the situation on my hands back home. Football twice-a-days started and the first scrimmage of the season was to take place on the Saturday of that week.
That Monday after practice, I couldn’t take it any longer.
I didn’t know how, but I planned to tell my coach about my beliefs.
I started walking home being too nervous to approach him, but turned back knowing it had to be done. Where would I start? How would he react? What would my team think?
I was anxious but I knew if God was with me thats all that would matter.
I told him that I wanted to be committed to my team, but I didnt want it to get in the way of my religion. I mentioned how I wanted to be a man of God and His laws have to come first in all I do. He says I was the first football player to ever talk to him about SDA practices. He wanted me to to play, but at the same time he couldn’t depend on me to play my position if I stayed. He told me he admired the maturity it took for me to make that decision on my own, and that he respected me for it. He was proud of everything I had done and how much I had grown as a person. I thanked him and we went our separate ways.
When I walked out the door I fully realized that I had sacrificed football for my faith. I knew it had to be done, and I also felt
blessed because I was able to do Gods will. It was a hard decision no doubt, but God has greater plans in store for me. It is an honor to serve Him with my life.
Written by: Brent Dennis (Brent is a senior in high school and lives in San Antonio, Texas)