Four Christian professional athletes are encouraging Americans to use the downtime presented to them by coronavirus lockdowns to grow closer to God and be intentional about strengthening their family units.
Recently retired National Football League tight end Benjamin Watson moderated the inaugural episode of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Huddle Up!” YouTube series sponsored by Pro Athletes Outreach last Friday.
The 37-minute discussion also featured retired NFL quarterback Luke McCown, Los Angeles Rams star receiver Brandin Cooks, and St. Louis Cardinals all-star pitcher Adam Wainwright talking about how they are using the unexpected downtime to grow in their faith.
“As Christians, we are called to be the light,” Wainwright, who is also leading a one-year online Bible study for over 16,000 Twitter followers, said. “In this time, there is a lot of negativity around. This is time that we can spend encouraging others to make us look different.”
As the coronavirus pandemic has shut down the sports world for the time being and many states and countries have issued stay-at-home orders, the panelists each spoke about how they are using this time to better their relationship with spouse, their children and the Lord.
McCown, a Louisiana Tech standout who played 10 seasons primarily as a backup quarterback with five different NFL teams, stressed that it's important to realize that God either allowed or ordained this pandemic to happen.
“This is intentional. God doesn’t do anything by accident, even all the things that you read about in Job,” McCown, 38, contended. “God either ordains or allows every circumstance or situation. He ordains it, meaning that He makes it happen. Or He allows it; He gives permission for it to happen. This is just one of those things.”
“I can’t help but think that we have gotten so busy in our lives, whether it's just going from ballgame to ballgame or ball practice to ball practice or [taking] the kids to dance recitals and this and that and the other, that there is an element that we are missing.”
McCown, a father of six, then referenced something he heard California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie say a few weeks back: “a family can survive without a nation but a nation cannot survive without the family.”
“I thought, man, that is never more true than right now, where God is causing everything to slow down and He wants us to pull into each other and engage with one another around the dinner tables, around the board games, around the movie night schedule, whatever it is,” McCown stressed. “We have kind of lost that art, if you will, that discipline of engaging as a family.”
McCown urged viewers to be “drawn to Him (God).” McCown said he has used the time to pour into his kids scripturally. He even talked about how he and his family participated in his church’s drive-in church service.
“What I would encourage other coaches and players: There is a lot of uncertainty involving the seasons with spring training on hold and the [NFL] draft coming up,” he said. “Everything involving the sports world right now is on hold. It’s a great moment for us to be drawn to Him. His mission has not been in any way sidetracked since the beginning of time.”
The 26-year-old Cooks, who got married in 2018 and is in the prime of his NFL career, said he has used the time to get to know his wife on a deeper level in addition to doing all he can to keep up with his offseason workouts.
Cooks explained that he and his wife are both reading through various books of the Bible. He specifically mentioned the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.
“It’s been awesome from that aspect because now she knows how to challenge me in a way that she didn’t know how to challenge me before,” Cooks admitted. “I think this time has been very fortunate for that.”
Wainwright, a father of five, said that when his kids look back on the coronavirus pandemic of 2019, he wants them to remember it as the time they got to spend so much time together that they wouldn’t have normally.
“There are just so many distractions that pull us in 12,000 different ways all the time,” Wainwright said. “This is the time that if we are going to make the most of a bad situation, we could use this to really settle down and get our priorities straight.”
Wainwright, who under usual circumstances would have just started his 15th MLB season, said he has used this free time to play basketball with his kids and watch movies.
“I am taking them through the Marvel series right now, so it’s pretty fun,” he said. Watson replied that he has recently watched “Frozen 2” twice.
Cooks also encouraged fellow athletes and coaches to use the time to “rest in the Lord.”
“Sometimes we forget how important rest is and how important God makes the art of resting,” Cooks said. “I think during this time right now, we need to figure out a way to rest. I am not saying lounge around. But I am more so saying rest and what it means to rest in His word, praying and getting that reset button and being restored at a time like this."
“There is a lot of negative connotation going on with being locked in the house,” Cooks added. “But at the end of the day, I think this is a way God is forcing us to rest.”
Wainright encouraged people during this time of negativity to “let Jesus completely infiltrate our body” so that “we become that light for the world to see.”
“We are not supposed to be the same as the people who don’t believe,” Wainright explained. “We are called to be different. We are called to be a light. In this time, when the chips are down, we still got the big man. We still got our Lord Jesus. … We still got a lot to be thankful for.”
Watson concluded the online gathering by giving a shortened overview of the Gospel and inviting viewers who are not Christians to come to faith in Christ.
“The offering now, the way to be encouraged, the way to have some sort of peace and understanding, the way to have salvation, the way to have your debt paid — the one that you could not pay — is by putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ,” Watson said. “It’s about repenting and turning away from your sin and putting your faith and trust in what Jesus Christ did for all of us on the cross.”