Ben Revere – A Little Guy with Big Dreams

 

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Outfielder Ben Revere.  Photo by Ian D’Andrea

 

5’9’’ Ben Revere never thought he would ever be able to play major league baseball – ever.

His goal was simply to play college baseball.  During his senior year of high school, Division 1 colleges like University of Georgia, Florida, Florida State, and Miami showed interest in him.  It appeared that his dream was about to come true.

God had bigger plans.

In 2007, as Revere was planning on figuring out what school to go to, he was drafted in the 1st round of the Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.  He thought it was a dream.  Revere told CBN; “When all that happened I was just like, ‘oh my goodness.’ It’s just, I didn’t think I was even going to go D1 because, I was the smallest guy on every team – every team.  And it just like man, you see all these kids like 6’3,” big, hit homeruns… And I’m like, ‘there’s no way I can make it.’

People doubted him.  Some said he was too small.  Others said he didn’t have a strong enough arm.  Others said he couldn’t hit with enough power.  It took him four years in the minors to prove himself, but at the end of the 2010 season, he made his major league debut.

Revere never did develop a great deal of power.  It took him 1,466 at bats before he hit his first Major League home run in the 2014 season!  What he lacked in power, however, he made up in contact.  He hit over .300 for three straight seasons from 2013-2015.  He led the National League in hits in 2014.

While Revere has been a consistent player, his baseball career has been one of constant change.  After debuting with the Twins, he was traded to the Phillies prior to the 2013 season, then to the Blue Jays at the 2015 trade deadline, and then to Nationals prior to the 2016 season.  He was granted free agency after his one season in Washington, and signed with the Angels in 2017.  He just recently signed with his 6th team, the Cincinnati Reds, in February of 2018.  He’s grateful to God for the opportunity to play.  He told CBN; “til this day, I’m just like, ‘Thank You.’ I’m just like, ‘Thank You.’ I’m just like, ‘Really, You didn’t have to give this to me.  You know, I will love You no matter what, but You give me this chance.  I’m not going to regret it.’”

One of Revere’s favorite Bible verses is Psalm 91:1-2.  In this verse, King David confesses that “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  Revere told Rob Maaddi in the book “Baseball Faith;” “When I read this passage, it’s definitely heartfelt, and you realize whatever you may be going through, whatever temptations are in your life, God is saying to you: ‘don’t give up on me, and I’ll help you overcome anything and have a long life of salvation.’ Reading this passage makes me realize that God has a better plan for me.  I like to read it especially if something isn’t going well because it’s a constant reminder that the Big Man upstairs is always by your side no matter what.  You see so many athletes waste their talent because their egos become so big and they think they can handle everything on their own, but no matter what gifts and blessings God gave you, He could take it away very quickly.”

As Revere begins this new chapter in his baseball career, nothing is guaranteed.  The deal he signed is minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.  As he fights for a roster spot on a team that already has a crowded outfield, He will look to God for strength and help, grateful for the opportunity.

Carson Wentz: Strength on the Sideline

 

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Eagles Quarterback, Carson Wentz.  Photo by Keith Allison

 

On February 4, 2018, millions of people had their eyes fixed on U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, as the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII.  As we watched Nick Foles lead the Eagles on the field, however, something amazing was also happening on the sidelines.

Carson Wentz.

Wentz is the Eagles star quarterback.  The Eagles paid a king’s ransom to trade up to the 2nd selection of the 2016 draft to select him and have been building their team around him ever since.  Wentz has done nothing but prove that he was worth it.  He’s not only been a great quarterback, but he’s also demonstrated strong character, and a selfless, team-first attitude.  He’s been quite vocal about the reason behind his attitude; his faith.  Wentz started a charity called AO1 – Audience of One.  During Week 13 of the 2017 season, the NFL sponsored a “My Cause, My Cleats” program, in which players could wear custom cleats promoting their favorite charity.  Wentz and other Eagles wore AO1 cleats, complete with the Bible Verse, Romans 5:8, which reads; but God shows His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Wentz spent the 2017 season, not only leading the Eagles to the playoffs, but by telling the world that he’s a Christian.  Wentz accomplished a great deal!

But he didn’t play in the Super Bowl.

In Week 14, in a game against the Rams in Los Angeles, Wentz tore his ACL.  After his injury, however, what Wentz did was perhaps more impressive than any of his on-field accomplishments thus far in his young career.  Instead of leaving his team to focus on his own rehab and recovery, Wentz stuck by his teammates on the sidelines.  He took on the role of encourager, mentor, and friend.  When the defense was on the field, he would sit by his replacement, Nick Foles’, side, helping him make in game adjustments.  He genuinely rooted for his team to succeed – even when that meant winning the Super Bowl without him.  Even in his weakness, Wentz showed the world what the heart of a Christian ought to look like.

Wentz, along with several other Eagles players, put together a devotional series for the YouVersion Bible App.  Here’s what Wentz had to say;

One of my favorite things about God is His creativity.  He’s blessed us all with different skills, different abilities, different passions, different things that we’re good at, and I think that’s so unique, and in 1 Peter 4:10 it says; “Each of you should use whatever gift you have receive to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  And various forms is what really jumps out to me, ‘cause, you see, I’ve been gifted to play football, as a professional quarterback.  But there’s other people who have been gifted to be pastors, to be businessmen… to be teachers, dentists, nurses, you name it.  And we all have this different mission field.  We all have this different platform and potential reach with our influence, but, at the end of the day, we all have the same mission.  And what’s our mission?  In Acts 1:8, Jesus says; “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Samaria and Judea, and to all the ends of the earth.”   So, at the end of the day, no matter what your job is, not matter where you’re at, no matter who you’re surrounded by, God has put it on your heart, and your mission is to tell the world about Him. To spread the Gospel.  To do it with love.  And that is our ultimate mission.  And it’s ultimately to do it for the Lord and to further His kingdom

Wentz had hoped his job this season would be to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl as their starting quarterback – and to bring God glory on the field.  It turns out, his job was to serve as a supportive voice on the sideline.  He embraced this unexpected, unwanted job with the same zeal he uses on the field, and has brought God glory in his humility and his love for his teammates.

 

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A photo of Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Nick Foles, and 3rd string quarterback Nate Sudfeld with Tony Dungy’s son, Justin, after the Super Bowl.  While Philadelphia celebrated, these 4 men of God found a quiet place to pray together.  Photo from Tony Dungy’s Twitter account

 

Trey Burton – James 1:22

 

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Trey Burton (#8) back in his University of Florida days.  Photo by SAM_5363

 

On a football team, you never know when the coach will call your number and need you to step up.

The Eagles have lived that reality this year.  It all started after week one, when kicker Jake Elliott was brought in for an injured Caleb Sturgis.  Than it was running back Lagarrette Blount (and, later, Jay Ajayi) stepping in for Darren Sproles.  The list kept growing.  Linebacker Joe Walker for Jordan Hicks – and then Dannell Ellerbe for Joe Walker.  Left Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai or Jason Peters.  Nick Foles for Carson Wentz.     For a short time there was another need for a player to step up.  In a crucial Week 14 matchup in Los Angeles against the Rams, star Tight End, Zach Ertz, was out, leaving backups Brent Celek and Trey Burton to step up.  Burton was ready.  He explained to the Increase

The biggest thing I’ve learned this year, especially in the past few weeks, is that you never know what’s going to happen, so you have to be ready at any time to step in and lead. Whether on the field, in the locker room or in team Bible study, you have to prepare as if you are the starter. On the field you never know what might happen; you have to be prepared for the worst. One of your teammates might get injured and end up out for the season. You need to be ready to give it all you have on every play. As a Christ-follower, I want to be prepared in my knowledge and trust in Him so that if anyone asks me a question about my faith, I’m ready.

God has also been teaching me to appreciate my teammates more this year, not only as they compete for our team, but as many of them work hard to build up the Kingdom of Christ. As a team needs each player — gifted specifically to execute in their position on the field — so the Church has members who are all a critical part of God’s mission, able to benefit the Church with their gifts and talents. Not one teammate is greater than the others. Everyone is needed for this mission.

We, as Christians, always need to be ready to step it up.  Whether it means stepping it up to preach the Gospel, to help someone in need, to show compassion to someone who is hurting, or to defend someone who is vulnerable.  Christians are called to be people of action.  Burton explained the following in one of his portions of the Eagles You Version devotion series;

James 1:22 says. “Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourself.”  I love this verse for many reasons.  Probably the #1 reason, though, I love this verse is because it’s counter-cultural to what we believe here in America.  A lot of times we go to church on Sunday and we listen to a great sermon or we hear our pastor preach on a topic, and that’s it.  We’re not doers, we just hear.  And so, when I started reading James, I truly fell in love with it and it kind of gave me a totally different mindset about church.  Not only should we go to church; Not only should we be listening to sermons on podcasts or YouTube or whatever it may be.  But that’s not the end of it, that’s really just the beginning.  And the same with reading the word, you know, when we’re in the Word and we’re studying Scripture – that’s not the end of it, that’s just the beginning and now it’s time to act on it.  And that’s something myself and my teammates have taken to heart this year; Not just sitting and listening and those types of things– which are great – but taking the next step and being doers of what we’ve been reading and what we’ve been studying.

We’re all called to step up as Christians.  We’re called to doers of the Word.  We’re called to rise to action and serve Him wherever and whenever we have the opportunity.

Marcus Johnson; Baptized Into Christ

 

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Marcus Johnson being baptized by Pastor Kyle Horner in the presence of some of his teammates.  Photo is from Marcus Johnson’s Instagram account.

 

The week of October 8, 2017, is one that Eagle’s receiver, Marcus Johnson, will never forget.

It was the week he went viral for a reason he never expected.

It was a week that nearly never happened.

Like many young men, Marcus Johnson grew up in the church, but gradually drifted away from it.  He explained in episode 36 of the Faith on the Field Show with Rob Maaddi;

“when I was younger, my family and I always went to church – every Sunday.  We did a little bit of Sunday School; my grandparents have always been strong in their faith; and it’s always been around me.  But as I got older and I got to high school – closer to the time that I was getting ready for College – we moved from where we originally were and We hadn’t really found a church… Then, once I got to College, I was on my own.  I wasn’t going like I should have.  And it wasn’t like we didn’t have outlets.  We had FCA at the time at the University of Texas; different churches that people were going to… I just never really took advantage of it for whatever reason…  I spent 4 years at Texas, you know, just on an up and down path, you know, my life was all over the place… I guess those 4 years I hadn’t really completely bought into all of it and I hadn’t pushed myself in my faith the way I should have.”

But even as Johnson’s life was going through a time of change and instability, God was supporting him and surrounding him with people to help him through.  He says; “I always had people in my corner the whole time.”  After college, Johnson went undrafted by the NFL.  On May 13, 2016, he signed a rookie contract to the play for the Eagles.  That’s when everything in his life began to change.

He tells Maaddi that being a part of the Eagles is

“everything you could ever ask for.  Going into the NFL, last year, my rookie year, you always hear people talk about the locker room; how dysfunctional they are; how players are selfish; how they only play for money and this and that.  And Immediately, when I got here, I had so many people who were just supportive.  [There] really wasn’t anything negative in that locker room.  From that point, I knew it was something special here…  It’s been encouraging for each and every person and, like I always say, we just hold each other accountable.  We’re not afraid to speak up about our faith.  We’re not afraid to hold each other accountable, to continue to make sure that we all stay on the right path.  And it’s such a blessing to have a group of guys you can come to about anything and just be like, ‘I want to grow in this area; I feel like I need work in this area.’  And, you know, they all have their own wisdom from their growing up and whatever course their life has taken and they can all give you good, honest advice.  They’re not going to tell you what you want to hear, they’re going to tell you what you need to hear… Since I’ve gotten to Philly, I’ve grown in my faith so much… If it wasn’t for the guys in this locker room, family, and friends really uplifting me and pushing me forward, there’s no telling where I’m at right now; if I’m moving, stagnant; if I’m growing in my faith; if I’m working in the community.”

This great moment in Marcus Johnson’s career however, ended before it really ever began.  On September 13, the Eagles cut Johnson from the team.  His faith, however, got him through it.  He explains; “It was just me never doubting what God had for me and, before I got cut and everything kind of happened the way it did, You know, I heard something powerful what somebody said, you know, what God has for you, no man can take.  And you just have to trust the process.  You have to be committed to it.  And you have to know it wholeheartedly… When I got cut, I didn’t look at it as anything but a business decision from the Philadelphia Eagles I didn’t take it personal, I just took it as motivation.  I went home, I worked out and stayed ready.”  It’s a good thing he did.  In December, the Eagles brought him back!

As he rejoined the team, he continued to grow in his faith.  Through the encouragement of players like Trey Burton, Carson Wentz, Torrey Smith, and others, as well as through local pastors and his friends and family, Johnson grew in his faith.  He began feeling called to be baptized.  He wanted a local Philadelphia Pastor, Kyle Horner, to baptize him.  As the desire to be baptized grew in his heart, the whirlwind week began.

It started on Sunday, October 8.  Johnson recorded his first NFL catch in a 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals.  The celebration would have to be short, as the Eagles would be flying to North Carolina to prepare for a Thursday night primetime showdown against the Panthers, in a battle of 4-1 teams.  Pastor Kyle would be travelling from Philadelphia to see the game, and Johnson wanted him to baptize him while they were all there.

Johnson says that “it’s been a true blessing.  You know, when something like that happens – not talking about the catch but being baptized, it’s something that you can’t do alone.  When you take a step like that, it’s a lot of people behind the scenes and not everybody gets to see and know that helps make something like that possible and, just leading up to it, I had been talking to Pastor Kyle about it for a while, and we were trying to get it all worked out and God had it meant to be right before the game. And Kyle flew out because he was going to watch the game, and he was like ‘Man, we can do it at the hotel if you want to, and I was like, it doesn’t matter where we have it or where we do it, I just want to go ahead and take the next step and be baptized.”  On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, Marcus Johnson was baptized into Christ, surrounded by his teammates.  The following evening, the Eagles defeated the Panthers, and began to receive a great deal of attention by the national media.

That’s when the unexpected happened.  Johnson posted a picture of the baptism on Twitter and on Instagram.  The picture went viral.  Even secular sports media outlets were covering the story.  Johnson’s baptism was featured on Fox News, CBS Sports, and 247 Sports.  That was something Johnson never expected when he posted the picture.  He tells Maaddi;

“As a football player, you kind of think something I do on the field – or something else might inspire or motivate people, and that’s how it’s been for a lot of my life. I didn’t think that me being baptized would blow up the way it did and it’s just amazing how God is using it… I’m just so thankful that something like a baptism could be so wide reaching.  I’ve had so many people reach out to me; from people who are believers who are just happy for me, from people who are like ‘you know, I’m not really a believer but I really like the growth that you’ve made and, you know, it’s inspired me and, you know, it’s really a beautiful thing when something like that happens.  It’s truly a blessing… I want to show the world and I’m glad that, like I said, the baptism went viral and a lot of people were able to see it.  And, I always pray for things like that – using my platform and influence for the better and for positivity; pointing every bit of success In His name… Just like you’ve seen in the power of this post going viral.  You know, anybody can post being baptized and it’s just another picture or another video.  But, it shows how powerful our platform is and our influence is… It’s amazing to see Him use me in that way, and I just want to continue to do that.”

Baptism isn’t the end of a Christian walk.  It’s the beginning.  Johnson’s plan now is to focus on “moving forward and just diving into the Word and learning more and being more committed in the Bible; Being more committed in community; Being more committed, in His Name…  I want to continue to uplift of the people around me.”

Update (March 9, 2018): Marcus Johnson experienced the joy of being part of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII winning season.  After the season, he was traded, along with a 5th Round Pick, to the Seattle Seahawks for 3-time All Pro Defensive Lineman, Michael Bennett, and a 7th Round Pick.