By Rolf Benirschke
The development of my faith has been a journey. God was my anchor
when I was at my lowest point during the 1979 surgeries. When I
stood at the edge of the cliff, staring into the dark abyss, I asked
some tough questions: What happens when I die? Is that it? Is there
any hope? Is this all there is to life?
My faith allowed me to come to grips with dying; and, as a result,
a feeling of extraordinary calm came over me. I felt at peace with
the Lord. I meant it when I told my father not to let the doctors
keep me artificially alive it if meant being on life support. I
was prepared to die and meet my Creator.
But looking back over the years, I can see where I had more of
an intellectual faith during those dark days in ICU. I believed
because it was comforting not because I had a relationship
with Christ. Instead, I had an instinctual faith that things were
going to work out, and if they didnt
well, that was
But once I got back on my feet, I put God back in His box. I
appreciate You getting me through this, but Ive got a great
life as an NFL kicker going now. See You later. I resumed taking
charge of my life and went back to doing things that I knew were
inappropriate. I wasnt a bad person, but I was living a hypocritical
life. My guilt kept me from going back to church; and the more I
stayed away from Christian fellowship, the easier it was to rationalize
Perhaps that was because my faith was a mile wide and only an inch
deep. Perhaps it was because I didnt have strong friends to
hold me accountable. Or, perhaps it was because I was just unwilling
to turn everything over to God.
As a kid, I went to mass and catechism class during the week. I
took Communion regularly and was confirmed in the Catholic faith.
But in the winter, when the snow was good, skiing at the Dartmouth
Skiway often took precedence over the Sabbath.
Not until my rookie season with the Chargers did I encounter a
group of Christians for the first time. Included in that group was
Mike Fuller, a special guy who also happened to be my holder.
For a kicker, there are no more valuable people on the team than
his holder and his snapper. I absolutely relied on Mike Fuller.
But Mike Fuller absolutely relied on Jesus Christ.
No matter how the season was going, Mike was always the same. Oh,
Mike was as competitive as everyone else, but there was a calm about
him that was hard to put your finger on. Whether we were going out
to kick a game-winning field goal or a meaningless extra point with
a 30-point lead, Mike was always the same. I didnt understand
it, but I knew I wanted it.
When Mike encouraged me to attend team chapel, I gladly accepted.
Mike planted the seeds of faith inside me, but it wasnt until
I became sick with inflammatory bowel disease a year later that
I began moving closer to Christ.
During my battle with ulcerative colitis, I discovered the fellowship
of Christian friends and the comfort that reading the Bible brings.
So when I lay there in the hospital in the fall of 79, I honestly
felt I had nothing to fear
no matter what happened.
I believed I had done everything I could do. I had excellent medical
resources, talented doctors, attentive nurses, a loving family and
faithful friends. Although I trusted that God was providing, it
was still sad to see the pain on my parents faces. I knew
that if I died my death would send them into deep grief. Still,
God was in control, I told myself, and I rested in that thought.
ABCs of salvation
Knowing your sins
are forgiven and you are ready for heaven is as simple as
following these steps:
A. Admit you
have sinned. "For all have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
B. Believe in
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal
life" (John 3:16).
C. Confess and
leave your sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful
and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
further help, contact the Assemblies of God church near you.
If you would like someone to pray with you concerning your
decision to follow Jesus Christ, please call:
the Assemblies of God
National Prayer Center
The regular visits I was getting from my minister friend, Jim Adkins,
were a tremendous source of strength. He was kind, gentle, sensitive
and giving. He read comforting Scriptures and fed my soul. That
helped a great deal. One of my nurses, Sheana Funkhauser, regularly
prayed with me. I liked that.
But all those years I never knew that believing in Jesus Christ
is not a religion its a relationship. All Christ was
asking me was to believe in Him, and I would have eternal salvation.
You see, I had always believed that I had to do something to earn
my salvation attending team chapels, having the right person
pray for me, giving money to charitable organizations. I always
thought that I had to be good or at least better than my
teammates to go to heaven. But no, all I had to do was accept
His free gift by saying, "I believe in You, and I humbly turn
my life over to You, asking that You forgive my sins and take control
of today and tomorrow."
In the end, thats all Christ wanted, and when I made that
commitment, everything changed including my relationship
with my wife, Mary.
Our lives havent been the same since.
Editors note: You can make this same decision that Rolf Benirschke
and many other NFL players made. Just follow the ABCs
of salvation on this page.
From Alive and Kicking by Rolf Benirschke with Mike Yorkey.
San Diego: The Firefly Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission.