What does a perfect life look like to you? It is something we all dream about yet if we were realists, we would know that it is not attainable. We may have moments when things seem to be going great and there is joy, contentment and satisfaction in many facets of life. But it is not sustainable. There are too many things that come along and turn things upside down. I know that this is nothing earth shattering, but this time, as I thought about it, I had a new take on it which I will get to in a little while.
But first, let’s get into the story Steve Bartkowski, former quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. As you can read in this story from faith talk ministries, Bartkowski had a great life on the go. He was the first overall draft pick in 1975, picked just ahead of Hall of Famers Randy White and Walter Payton and showed that he was deserving of that pick winning the Rookie of the Year award. He would go on the play in 2 Pro Bowls, join the Falcons ring of honor and had his number retired by Atlanta. But life was definitely not perfect for “Bart”. In fact, just before his 4th season, Bartkowski lost his job. But in that loss, he found something greater.
In this article from premierespeakers.com, we read more about the story from Bartkowski. He says” I played poorly, the fans were critical, the press was down on me, and I had to face the most critical year of my life. There was no where to turn. I was ashamed of being Steve Bartkowski. In hindsight, though, I clearly see how God was taking all the earthly props away and was getting ready to make an interception in my life. It was during the 5th pre-season game of my fourth year in the NFL, against Philadelphia that the crash came. The harder I tried, the worse things got. The fans were booing and the press was criticizing. The pressure hit me from all angles. That night following the game I knew I had to get alone. I told myself This is it- I have tried as hard as I can in every game and things still continue to get worse. There is nothing else I can do. There is no more ability left in me. Alone in my room, I recalled that a man once told me how to become a Christian*. I bowed my head and repeated a simple prayer. I asked God to put HIS plan to work in my life. I asked Christ to come into my life and take over as Number One. Although, I wasn’t sure at that moment what had happened, the one thing I was sure of was the terrific sense of peace that came over me as I prayed. A huge burden had been lifted. I knew I had an encounter with the living Lord, even though I was not sure how to explain it to anyone.”
Bartkowski got his starting job back, and would go on to set Falcons passing records until knee problems led to his retirement in 1987. His passing records stood until the past couple of years when many were surpassed by Matt Ryan. He is one of only a handful of QBs to throw 30 TDs or more in back to back seasons.
Nowadays, “Bart” remains active in the great outdoors. You can read this interview from Christian Sportsman Magazine where you will learn about his work with Christian Sportsman’s Fellowship. Check out what he says about his purpose in life.
“How do you personally know that God has a specific plan and purpose for your life and what is His purpose or mission for Steve Bartkowski?
I am confident of this one thing…every single day that I’m alive I need to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and He will take care of all the details. I have no idea what the future holds but I do know Who holds the future. My sole desire is to live faithfully moment by moment and enjoy the ride. “
Here are my takeaways from Bartkowski’s story:
1- Bumps in the Road – I’ve talked many times on this site about the hard things that life brings our way. Sometimes they are speed bumps and potholes and sometimes the road seems washed out altogether. Now speed bumps in some parts of the world are referred to as “sleeping policeman”. Because what do you do when you see a police car when you are driving? If you are like me, you immediately take your foot off the gas pedal, check your speed and slow down if necessary to make sure you are not going to get a ticket.
Speed bumps make us slow down like that. And maybe there is a lesson in that for us. We go so fast and focus so much on whatever is going on in the moment in our lives, that often, God can be out of sight and out of mind. But when hard things hit, those bumps in the road can force us to slow down and cry out to God. Maybe that is the challenge that we can take from this. Take time in good times and in bad to slow down and notice how God is working in your situation.
2- Seek Ye First -“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 has been an important verse in my life. A few verses earlier, Jesus is talking about worry, which I am prone to. I can get stressed about all kinds of things that are not even in my control. But Jesus invites us to focus on Him and His Righteousness – that is important because my righteousness is not worth anything. Isaiah 64.6 says “all our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rags”. If I am depending on my righteousness, it will cause me to worry more because I know that it is not even close to good enough.
But Jesus lived righteously and died for our sins. He invites us to accept His righteousness as a cover for our sinfulness. Does that give us an excuse to keep on sinning? Certainly not. Instead we follow God’s design to carry out our primary purpose – to seek Him first and to ask for His forgiveness. Chose to live for Him and help others understand His love and the righteousness He offers them.