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Patience and perseverance

Conversation with Randall Cunningham

Randall Cunningham, the All-Pro quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, led his team to a 15-1 record in 1998 and was the NFL Player of the Year. This season he lost his starting position early on, but accepted his backup role with dignity. Paul Cossentine, sports editor of the Minnesota Christian Chronicle, spoke with Cunningham for the Evangel.

Evangel: Last year the Lord called you to lead the Vikings through a spectacular season as the starting quarterback. This year He is asking you to lead in a different way.

Cunningham: It has been different to be in the back and be the quiet person, but the encouraging person at the same time. Sometimes it has the same impact as some of the things that I did on the field. If people hear an encouraging word it can change their whole mood from negative to positive. Even though I study my plays and do as much as I can, I know I have to do more. Being kind to people and patting them on the back when they really need it, or searching for the one guy who is having a downtime and lifting him up is very important.

Evangel: As a role model, would you say this has been an opportunity for you to be a light for Christ?

Cunningham: Yes. There have been people who have come to me and really encouraged me. God is so amazing how He sends people to encourage me and say, "The way you handle the situation of being put on the bench gracefully really encourages me."

I don’t know everything that God is going to do in my life, but I know that in everything that I do, I have to be humble about it. I have to be a servant. It really doesn’t matter what you want to do; it matters what is in your spirit. What was in my spirit is to make sure that I am patient and able to persevere.

Evangel: Do you look forward to playing again?

Cunningham: I pray for [starting quarterback] Jeff George to stay healthy. I don’t want to see him get hurt. At the same time I pray that whenever it is God’s timing for me, if He needs me, that I will be prepared. I prepare in the same way I did as the starter, staying focused and making sure that my life is in right standing with God off the field and on the field. That is what allows me to be calm with myself.

Evangel: How can you praise God in a situation that is difficult?

Cunningham: I’ve got a couple Scriptures right here that I was reading last night. The Bible says in Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it talks about rejoicing in all circumstances: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (NIV). Pretty awesome.

Evangel: What have you learned from this experience?

Cunningham: Your circumstances develop your character. When no one is looking, that’s who we really are. When I go through the things that I’m going through right now, I ask God to give me wisdom in it. Because in this season, so many trials have come my way that all I can do is be patient and persevere through it. I know there’s a blessing that comes in the end.


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