We talked with Toronto Raptors forward C.J. Miles about his faith journey, how he’s living in the increase of Christ, and the mentors that have impacted his life.
What effect does your faith have on your lifestyle?
As a professional athlete, you can easily be pulled into a lot of things that would lead you down the wrong direction. The money, the fame, the notoriety and all that comes with that can lead you to a place you really shouldn’t be. But when your faith is placed in Christ, you don’t have to go down that path. Your faith can keep you grounded, keep you from shifting. Having been raised in the Church and having the truth of the Bible embedded in me at an early age, I’m able to be confident in the way I move and confident in what I believe. I’m not left second guessing myself or my decisions because I know the truth.
I’m not a really outspoken “rah-rah” type of player. I have no problem articulating what I believe, but I’m not naturally the guy with the megaphone. I believe in leading by example and letting my actions speak loudly. I know I’m always being watched, even if that’s just by my fellow teammates, and I want to be an example to everyone who’s paying attention. Having been in the NBA for 13 years now, I take this responsibility seriously. What I’ve learned and been able to do over time, I want to share with anyone I can. My faith is a big part of that. My belief in Jesus naturally comes out in conversation as we talk together and they observe my lifestyle. I want to witness to others without taking a Bible and whacking them upside the head with it. But if they can see it in the way I am, it becomes a natural conversation.
Describe how your journey with Christ began.
I was born in the Church. My father was the youth minister in a small town in Texas for many years, and he’s now the minister at the church. We were there on Wednesday nights for service, Sunday morning and evening for service, and we sang in the choir. The Christian lifestyle and community was embedded in me at a very young age. No matter where I went or what kind of dreams I was chasing, I was always able to place my faith in Christ because I had a firm foundation from the beginning. In life we go through ups and downs and many trials. There will be some decisions you make that you’ll regret, but unfortunately that’s often part of the growth process. I believe I had to go through some hard times so I could know how to talk to others and help guide them through their own struggles by sharing my testimony and the truth with them in a personal way. I’m not saying that when you turn 21 you should go and be as wild as you can so you have a good story. If you are living your life in an honest way, you’ll make mistakes. No one finds their true need for God if everything is right all the time. The road to perfection is rough but it makes us figure out who we need to be.
Who have been the mentors in your life? How did God bring these people into your life?
First and foremost, my parents have been an amazing influence on me from day one. My dad, also being my youth minister, invested so much into my life. Because of his relationships and who he knew, I was able to grow up around friends and family who were also a part of the body of Christ. This was the circle that I was raised in — a company of people who were trying to do things the right way.
My high school coach, J.D. Mayo, was one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. I’m so grateful that I was able to play for him for four years. He and his minister were a huge part of why our basketball team was the way it was. They helped us in so many ways, including donating or raising money for our program to give us things we normally wouldn’t have. Getting to know him — a strong believer in Christ — was like having an extension of my father on the court. I don’t think I really appreciated everything he did for me until I was gone. In high school I would think, “Why do I have to be at practice 15 minutes early in order to not be ‘late?’” He taught us hard work and discipline, but he also made sure we knew what was the most important thing in life. Without forcing anyone to, he led our team in prayer before every game.
Basketball has taken me around the world to places where I’ve met so many incredible people. And because I openly confess my faith in Christ, I’ve often been asked to speak to people in many different states, where I’ve met some amazing people also.
What does the Increase of Christ mean to you?
It’s all about growth. The increase of Christ comes when you continue to try to better yourself for His sake. Some people naturally have great patience, but for some, they have to really harness this over time. Patience is something you need in order to portray Christ to others. For others, they are able to keep a positive mindset in any and every situation without much effort, but some have to work harder at this. Over time you recognize what character traits you need to work on, whether that be controlling your language or being less impressionable by others — keeping your faith strong. The increase of Christ comes when you are aware of your sinful nature by praying to God and studying His Word (the Bible is a mirror) so that you can increase Christ in your life. By understanding the light of Christ and how He works in you, you can then be His light to the world. Everyone doesn’t shine in the same way; everyone’s light isn’t the same shade. The more you understand Christ and how God’s gifted you, the more light you can reflect out to others.
What is your life verse? Why?
Though it’s not a specific verse, the Serenity Prayer is often my to-go prayer:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
This prayer means a lot to me because it’s important to recognize that there are things we can and cannot control. We need to find the wisdom to know the difference between these so we can work hard at what we should, and trust God with the rest, knowing He’s in full control.