Joe Smith: Running on Empty
By Jeremy Callahan
The 700 Club
“Here’s a guy that never boxed in his life that’s all of a sudden representing his country on the biggest amateur sports stage in the world.”
Joe Smith was the team manager for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team.
“I will never forget walking through that opening ceremony that day.”
It’s hard to believe this spirited coach almost ended his life years ago.
“I was gonna get some relief and my answer to relief was a 45 caliber pistol.”
He gave his life to Christ as a young boy, but walked away when he went to college.
“As happens with a lot of college kids, I began to experiment a little bit with drinking and going to parties. The alcohol kinda made me feel ten feet tall and bullet proof and I could do anything I wanted to do, so it escalated from maybe once or twice a week to three or four times a week to everyday.”
The alcohol took over, and Joe eventually dropped out of college and took a job in sales. Years later, he married and had children, but his addiction only grew worse.
“I was a miserable, miserable man. I couldn’t provide for my family anymore because physically I wasn’t able to work. I was drunk and high all the time, so I couldn’t hold a job. I didn’t just drink and use because I wanted to, because I wanted to party. I drank and used because I had to—to survive.”
Joe had no money and a home in foreclosure. His family was ready to leave.
“My wife knew that she had to protect and take care of those children, and she was ready to go. I felt hopeless. I didn’t see any way out. I couldn’t get high. I couldn’t get drunk anymore—it didn’t work. But at the same time, I couldn’t get sober, either. I wrote my wife a note, and I was apologetic in that note, and told her that I was gonna take my life.”
He got in his truck and headed to the place where he planned to kill himself. Along the way, he ran out of gas.
“I slammed the door and I kicked in the side of that truck and I had messed up everything in my life. Now, I’m trying to take my life, and I can’t even do that right.”
He was walking to a nearby gas station when someone stopped to help.
“He says, ‘Well, get in, I’ll take you to get some gas.’ And I got in the car with that man, and he just sensed that something wasn’t right, and he asked me, ‘Are you OK?’ ‘I’m just fine—are YOU OK?’ and that was kind of our conversation and he told me, ‘I just feel like that you’re hurting, that something’s not right.’ And I told him, ‘Well, you’re mighty nosey, but let me tell you what’s going on.’ And I just poured my heart out to that guy. I don’t know why.”
The man helped Joe get into a rehabilitation program, where he re-dedicated his life to Christ and sought forgiveness from his wife.
“It gave me so much time to look at the wreckage that I had caused and taking ownership of that. She would articulate that she forgave me, but it took a long time. I just repented and said, ‘God, I don’t want to live like this anymore.’ And He said, ‘Ok, we’re gonna help you not to live like that anymore.’”
Today, Joe’s the father of two children. He and his wife have adopted seventeen foster children.
“The reason today that I’m able to do what I do, and not returning to that old lifestyle, is just the under girding sense of confidence that God will never leave me, and he’ll never forsake me, and He’s promised that he will equip me with his entire armor to be able to live for him.”
Now Joe’s goal is to pass on that confidence to kids inside the boxing ring.
“I learned that I can reach a lot of young people—street tough, inner city kids through the sport of boxing that I could never get to in any other way. We want to obviously teach them that boxing can get you off the street and can help you behaviorally, but what’s going to save you eternally is that personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Along with Joe’s success came an invitation to be the team manager for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team in Beijing.
“I had eleven athletes from all across America--most of them tough, inner city, tough tough kids. I had opportunities to share with every single one of them. Seven of them prayed with me to receive Christ as Savior. No matter what kinds of mistakes that I’ve made, or what has been the degradation of my thoughts or my sin, I can come to the foot of the cross and instantly be forgiven. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life. It can be fixed with that personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
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