Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Chiefs lineman Stefen Wisniewski on trying season: 'God allowed it to test me, to bring Him glory'

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stefen Wisniewski spoke with Sports Spectrum during Super Bowl Opening Night about his faith and his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. Afterward, the left guard said he wrote a piece he wanted to publish on our website. Enjoy!

Every man playing in the Super Bowl has a story. Here’s mine.

After seven mostly successful years playing in the NFL, which included 90-plus starts and a Super Bowl ring with the Philadelphia Eagles, my career took a sharp turn downhill. In 2018, I was benched during the season, fired at the end of the year, re-hired, then fired at the end of training camp this year. I spent the first five weeks of the 2019 season unemployed, on my couch watching NFL games. It was a frustrating time. But I believe God allowed all this to happen to me to test me, to bring Him glory, and to teach me how to better follow Him.

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Here are a few lessons I learned during this valley of trial and uncertainty:

Reject the lies and cling to the Truth

During this time, the devil dropped all kinds of bad thoughts in my head. Thoughts like, 1) “If your circumstances are so bad, how can God be good?” Or 2) “If your life is so unfair, is God really fair?” Or 3) “You’ve followed God for years and this is how He repays you? Surely following God isn’t worth it.” And et cetera, et cetera.

These are all lies. Despicable lies. Lies that, if believed, can destroy our relationship with God. Some of us hear these lies and think, “Wow devil, you make some good points. How about you sit here on the couch of my mind? I’ll make you some coffee, and you can tell me more about these lies against God.” This is a bad idea. When these thoughts cross our minds, we must IMMEDIATELY declare, “No! That is a lie. The truth is …” and finish that thought with a truth to counter from God’s Word.

For example, I would have countered the three lies above with these truths: 1) God is good all the time, regardless of circumstances. Psalm 100:5 (ESV): “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” 2) This world is often unfair because of sin and free will, but God is fair, and He will punish the wicked and reward the righteous, this side of Heaven, or the other. Psalms 89:14 (ESV): “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.” 3) We are never promised that if we follow closely after Jesus our lives will always go smoothly. Look at nearly every Old Testament prophet. Look at Paul’s life — suffering followed him every place he took the Gospel. But we are promised that God will be with us, and that being in close, intimate relationship with God is the greatest joy and greatest reward we will ever have. So the question isn’t so much, “Is following God worth it?” But, “Is He worthy?” The answer is a resounding “yes.” Revelation 4:11 (NIV): “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.” Matthew 28:20 (NIV): “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Surrender/trust in God’s sovereignty

The other secret I’ve found to persevering during a time of uncertainty and waiting is found in these verses: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it” (Luke 9:24, NLT). And, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV).

I believe that we humans cause ourselves a lot of unneeded stress and pain by trying to control things we can’t control. The path to peace is one of surrender. Trying to hang on to our life or career brings anxiety and fear. Letting go of it, so that God can use it for His Kingdom purposes, brings joy. After all, we aren’t really in control anyway. We’re like a child grabbing at the steering wheel while Dad is driving — we’re only gonna cause a wreck or a wrong turn. It’s better to let Dad (God) drive and we enjoy the ride.

My life and my football career are not my own; I have surrendered them to God. He may do whatever he pleases with them. Because I had that mindset, I truly was able to have peace during this crazy time.

OK, so it’s the beginning of Week 6 this year in the NFL, and finally I get the call I’ve been waiting for. It’s the Chiefs. I’m thrilled to get to play for a really good team and organization. So I fly out to Kansas City, and a few days later I’m in my pads again on the sideline on game day as the backup guard. The season rolls on and I play a little bit here and there, but I never get to play a whole lot or start a game.

That is until Week 16, the second-to-last regular-season game. I get an opportunity to start, play the whole game, and I play well. Week 17, I start, play well again. Then two playoff games, I start and play well some more. Now here I am, a few days away from starting in the Super Bowl.

It is truly an unbelievable story — one that only God could have written. It’s more than I could’ve imagined as I sat unemployed, watching football all September long. But then God’s plans are always better than ours.

Here’s what I’ve learned this side of the storm, looking back at the valley from the mountaintop: “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (Psalms 115:3, ESV).

God truly can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. He is all-powerful. He could have delivered me from unemployment earlier, He could have given me a chance to start a game earlier, but He didn’t. His timing is always perfect. I’ve learned that if God has you in a trial waiting for deliverance, He is able to deliver you. And if He is waiting to do so, it’s because He wants to work some character growth in you, and do something through you to bless others while you wait. He also may be waiting to deliver you in such a way that anyone who hears your story will say, “Only God could’ve done that.”

Final lesson

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

I’ve always loved this verse. It is a great encouragement to any Christians living in the in-between time — the time between planting good actions and reaping God’s reward from those actions. What I’ve learned on this side of the harvest is: OUR GOD IS A PROMISE-KEEPING GOD! He has made this promise in His Word and He will fulfill it!

So never give up planting good things like obedience, and love, and purity, and faithfulness. God promises that you will reap a harvest at His proper time — this side of Heaven or the other.

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