This week, “Throwback Thursday” brings me to a sort of “necessary evil”. I am stationed in Vikings Country here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and so as I aim to write about a player from each team (past or present) that means that at some point, I will need to share a positive, inspirational story about a member of the Green Bay Packers. That always seems to put a chill in the air with the die-hard fans of the “purple” that are all around. Maybe with the great season the Vikings are having, more grace will be granted as I write about a former member of the Vikings “cheesy” neighbors. As I looked into the stories of some of the historical Packers, the faith journey of former Packers Defensive End Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila caught my attention. I am excited to share some of his story with you here.
His numbers are very impressive. He played in 1 Pro-Bowl and led the NFC in sacks in 2004. He was enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame in 2013. But most impressive is the fact that he is the all-time Packers sack leader.
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, known in his playing career as “KGB: was born in Los Angeles, California in 1977. His parents had moved from Nigeria and were both Muslim. His mother, however, converted to Christianity shortly after arriving from Nigeria. So Kabeer was brought up in the middle of a battle of religions. As you can learn in this video from “The Increase” much of KGB’s faith and beliefs echoed his dad’s beliefs that Christians, when pressed, would not be able to give answers about God or why they believed Jesus was the Savior.
When he met with Gil Byrd, the director of player development for the Packers at the time, he posed his usual questions about Jesus to Byrd, but Byrd was able to answer them and started Gbaja-Biamila searching the Bible for more truth. You can read more about the exchange in this article from Samaritan Ministries. The truth that KGB learned was that he was a sinner and that all of a sudden, Jesus made sense. He realized that his sin made things seem hopeless at first, but the hope that Jesus brings is real. His willingness to take our place and pay the penalty is a life-changing. Kabeer prayed, admittedly uncertain to which God he was praying, asking that he would be able to find these contradictions in the Bible. Instead, he found the truth of the Bible and decided that he would choose to accept Jesus and live life for Him.
And KCB grew in his faith and God has guided him to be a strong witness to his team, to the community of Green Bay and to the world at large. Check out this story from jcsuperstars where we see more of Gbaja-Biamila’s heart for serving God. He says about playing in the NFL, “I pray for protection for me and my teammates, but ultimately I wrap it up by saying that, ‘God, I just pray you’re glorified through this whole thing, and ultimately, let Your will be done. If that means losing a game, so be it. If it means winning a game, so be it. If it means being hurt, so be it.”
And he practiced what he preached, too. Read about when he was demoted from starter to Pass Rush specialist in this article from jsonline, he at first was upset but ultimately he said “But because of my faith, I said this is not (general manager) Ted Thompson’s decision. This is not (coach) Mike McCarthy’s decision. I said, ‘God is in control of everything. If this is your will for me, so be it. I will do it.”
That faith and trust in God’s plan has been important in the highs and lows that life has brought along. Later in the Samaritan’s Ministries article we learn about the day when his first child was born – a day filled with joy and excitement turned into a day of sorrow and sadness hours later when Kabeer’s mother was killed in a car accident. He said “I can’t fool myself. What happened on that single day, it’s going to affect me for a long time. But I know I’m going to be able to carry on because I know that’s what my mom would want of me, and I know God is going to give me strength.”
Here are my takeaways from Gbaja-Biamila’s story
1- The Search for Truth – Gbaja-Biamila sought out Christians to try and tear down their faith. He wanted to prove that their belief in God was misguided and that Christianity was not true. But when he started to read the Bible for himself, he realized that it was true and that Jesus was real and was really God. John 8.33 says that the truth will set you free. That is what happened for KGB. It can happen for each of us, too. Give the Bible a read and ask God to show you what you can learn from it. God is enough. We don’t need special gimmicks to convince people to look to Him. He is enough. He is always relevant and his love and the truth of the gift of life that he offers is enough to win over even the coldest, hardest of hearts.
2- The Challenge is Issued – Gbaja-Biamila says in the video and the articles that he had a “go-to” challenge where he would ask Christians where Jesus said He was God, and many could not provide that answer. It is a good challenge. Do you know enough about your faith in God and the words of the Bible to answer the questions that opponents of your faith may have for you. I am challenged to study the Bible daily and grow in my understanding of the Word so I can be ready to answer these types of questions. Interestingly enough, I am in a weekly Bible study that is studying the book of John, and just this week, a couple days before reading Gbaja-Biamila’s story, I was studying John 4, where Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. In John 4.25, the Samaritan woman says that she knows that the Messiah is coming and he will explain everything to the people. Jesus replies in verse 26 “I, the one speaking to you- I am he.” Jesus was the Messiah, and He knew it and declared it. You can know it too, and be confident that if you ask Him to, He will reveal Himself to you.
3- Ultimate Reward – Gbaja-Biamila had a great career with many accolades and successes. There would be lots of reasons that he would have to brag. But that is not what KGB is all about. He says “If I’m going to be doing any bragging, I’m going to be bragging about Your Son, and what Your Son did for me.’ I’m just blessed to be a part of anything that He’s got going on.” We can get so caught up in our status or achievements which will all rust, or fade away. But what Jesus did for us, that is never ending. It will not fade away. It is the ultimate reward, mostly because it is not something we did anything to win or deserve. His gift of love and life is worth celebrating and bragging about. Let’s tell everyone what an amazing God we serve and what a great Savior Jesus is. He offers this gift to all who would believe in Him. Let’s spread the news.