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CBN.com The stare… almost as devastating as his split-finger fastball.
John Smoltz will soon become the first pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves. But until 1995, the peak of his career, John wasn’t quite sure what being saved was all about.
“I never really understood born-again Christians. I really didn’t,” John tells The 700 Club. “I didn’t understand how they could live one way and then tell me how to live it after that.”
John was raised in a Christian home and attended chapel throughout the Minor Leagues and during his career with the Braves. But he was struggling with the true meaning of God’s grace.
“I said the prayer. If I said it a thousand times I said it two thousand times.”
But one evening as he was eating dinner with the team chaplin, John posed some questions he had about becoming a Christian.
“I asked him this question. I said, ‘I’ve prayed the prayer. [It] keeps me from living my life the way I want to live it. [At 45, 46], I’ll turn it over to the Lord, and the rest will be history. What prevents me from doing that?’ He simply looked at me and said, ‘Nothing prevents you from doing that with just one tiny exception. You might not make your target date. You are not in control of your next breath.’
"I accepted Jesus and really understood that it’s not just a prayer, it’s a surrender. It’s a heart-felt contract. It’s an opportunity to know that these things that He’s given us in the Bible -- the standards, the obedience -- those are for our benefit.”
The next year he won 24 games and was the National League Cy Young award winner.
John’s stats are amazing -- certainly good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but ask him and he’ll tell you. None of that compares to his relationship with Jesus Christ.
“The significance of all that as I climb the ladder, I’ve achieved this, this, this, the 15 playoff wins... all of this is incredible but it doesn’t compare to the riches and glory of knowing where I’m going to be the day I die,” says John.
John shared his testimony at faith day -- an event that gives baseball fans the opportunity to hear how God has changed the lives of their favorite players.
“It’s not because of me. It has nothing to do with me,” he says. “I walk away every chance I can to share my testimony -- feeling that it was for me, that God had me speak for me. Now it might be for some other people out there but the obedience of knowing that he has used me for whatever reason to get a point across is very humbling.”
As he continues adding to his win total on the field, his acclaim grows, but so does his criticism.
“You have people that say, ‘It’s easy, John Smoltz, to share your testimony. You have money. You have family. You have success. You have power. It’s easy for you to talk about those things.’ My rebuttal is it’s even harder, because if I have those things, I don’t need God. It’s when you have all those things and the distractions of the world tell you you’ve got to gain them. It’s even harder to share this when you have it all.”
John says baseball can be taken from him at any time, so he puts his trust in God.
“I’m just so fortunate through arm injuries, through everything you could imagine, through some of the toughest times, He’s brought me to my knees and that’s where I need to ask Him for guidance.”
God has given John a heart for the lost, and he hopes that sharing his struggles will lead others to Christ.
“I looked at it like Paul being in jail or anyone being in jail. When you get out, you want to tell people the freedom you experience. Don’t go there. Don’t be this, and this is what I’ve experienced. So I’ve learned a lot, and life lessons never stop.
“I would love to leave a legacy with my children to know that God had a hand in my life, to know that He changed me from a decent person to a God-fearing, loving person, and that servant mind-set, humility, thinks of others before himself… I mean I can go on and on. That’s become the forefront of my thinking. It’s no longer John Smoltz and whatever else comes next.”
In baseball, pitchers can achieve wins and suffer losses, but John says no loss is greater than a life lived without Jesus Christ.
“All you have to do is surrender, give your life into His hands and start following His commands,” he says. “That to me has changed my life. I don’t have to hold on to life as if this is as good as it’s going to get.
“We’re searching for significance in this world. It’s like Paul talking about chasing after the wind. All these things become useless, and I think the one thing I would love for people to realize is they’re significant. They’re all important. They all have a testimony. They’re all loved.”
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