Each year, a new World Champion is crowned in the NFL. How many can name all the past Super Bowl Champions? I can't. At one time, I was one of the few fortunate athletes to compete at the highest level in football and share in the sweet taste of victory.
It doesn't seem like very long ago, but I kicked two field goals and three extra points for the World Champion Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. That was in January of 1996! Time flies!
Winning a Super Bowl Ring and all the fan-fare that comes with being a champion was the highlight of my six-year NFL career. I hold a couple of NFL records and several Cowboys team records. That was a nice identity while it lasted--"Chris Boniol, Kicker for the Dallas Cowboys." Then it was "Kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles," then "Kicker for the Chicago Bears." Your identity can change fast as a kicker in the NFL.
The first four years of my career were very successful. I had plenty of exposure and personal success on the field. Fans and media only had praises for me as a player. I had all kinds of reasons to feel good about myself and about my place in the world. After all, I was a Dallas Cowboy. I had all the peace I needed from reading about myself in the paper and seeing my kicks on TV.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed me to a free-agent contract after three record setting seasons with the Cowboys. My field goal percentage dropped 10% my first year in Philadelphia. Coaches, fans, and media were very disappointed and they let me know about it. The confidence and the peace that had been with me while playing for the Cowboys were slipping away.
After leaving Philadelphia, I signed with the Chicago Bears in 1999. My wife, Christine, and I were excited to move there and hoping I could get my career back on track. Despite a couple of game winning field goals, I still finished the season barely over 60% on field goals. That is not acceptable by NFL standards. Again, I was staring down the barrel of criticism regularly and true self-confidence was nowhere in sight.
While with the Bears, Christine and I started attending a Bible study with other players and their wives. We had a good marriage at the time, but wanted more meaning in our lives. Our marriage began to grow stronger as we became more spiritual. I also started to find the awesome Peace that only God can provide. After reading:
Philippians 4: 6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Faith in Christ restored the peace and self-confidence that had been missing in my life. The constant evaluation and frequent praise or criticism from other people was no longer important to me. Instead of living and playing to please other men, I focused on living for God. As a kicker, I was identified by a logo on my helmet and a number on my jersey.
1 Samuel 16: 7 "The Lord does not look at the things men look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
As a kicker in the NFL, I was judged on results only. If you miss a big kick, there won't be much forgiveness from the critics. Jesus Christ, on the contrary, gave us a life-long contract of forgiveness when he died on the cross. For me, it is not about a Super Bowl ring; it's about my wedding ring. It is not about treasures on earth; it's about treasures in heaven. It is not about adoring fans; it's about my adoring family.
Every year there is a new Super Bowl Champion. Jesus Christ was crowned our Eternal Champion when he died for our salvation. I pray that you can find the same unfailing peace that I have found in Christ.
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