Being a fifth-year player, the biggest daily challenge I face is the one of humility. It’s a constant battle to keep a humble attitude every day I come into the building.
When you’re in year one, it’s easy to stay humble. You get pushed around the field and you always have something new to learn. Then you get to years four, five and six and an uninvited sense of entitlement begins to creep in. You think, “This should be easier,” or “I already know these things.” You start to think you deserve certain things, which no one has promised you. Instead of coming in each day with a teachable, humble attitude, you assume you know it all.
But the truth is, we don’t deserve anything. Ultimately, whatever the Lord has for me today, that’s what’s best for me and it’s more than I deserve.
Once you have gained some knowledge and have some experience under your belt, it’s hard to fight that egotistical mindset, even when you’re in a new space. But you can’t; you should aim to reset your mind and take an attitude of humility. Even when I have a bad day at practice, my flesh wants me to think, “Don’t worry about it, tomorrow will be better.” But what I need to do is realize I’m never too good. I need to stay late on those days and keep practicing. I need to reset my thinking.
But the battle with ego can be won. One of the greatest weapons against this temptation for me has been Galatians 1:10:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
My wife knows I love almonds; I eat them all day long. Every morning she packs me a bag of almonds with a little note for me as I leave for work. One day she wrote this verse on the note because she knows it’s one of my favorites. With it I ask myself, “Am I doing this to please men or God?” And I have to throw myself into the “men” category. “Am I trying to please myself or the Lord?”
Just as I was telling our team chaplain, Jack Easterby, the other day, there were times after I first got saved that I would get so frustrated because there were things I wanted to do, but I knew I couldn’t now that I was walking with Christ. I knew they were wrong now because Christ had changed me. When times get hard today, I still ask myself, “Who am I trying to please?” I can think Jesus is real, I can believe that He’s the Son of God, but do I think Jesus is right when He says who He says He is? Do I believe I am who He says I am? Do I trust Him when He calls me to do something I can only do with His help? If I truly believe these things, it will change everything I believe about my calling for life.
Whenever I go through any type of hard time, this is when I have the most authentic and real quiet times with the Lord. This is when I have the most meaningful communication with God.
On the team, we have what are called “bout runs.” These are the hardest conditioning sets we have; they’re meant to test you to the furthest level physically. There have been days I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete them. But I did. Every time. And every day we had those, those were the best quiet times I would have with the Lord all week. I would be in the middle of the fire, in pain with no guarantee of success or rewards afterward.
No one promised us anything on these days, we just knew this is our job and we have to go out and finish the course. I’m not a quitter; I’m always going to go out and do this when I’m called, but it’s awful. The whole time I’m in constant communication with God, praying, “One more step. One more step.” It’s the only way I’ll make it through. During these moments I’m not trying to formulate the perfect prayer, I’m not going to Him with personal requests, I’m simply letting Him know I need Him running beside me. I know He’s got me. He’s saying to me, “Let’s finish this together.”
People go through crazy circumstances, much more intense and heart-wrenching than bout runs. Often the times we experience the worst situations are the moments we ask some hard questions. And it’s in these moments when we can rely on God in a very real way.
With these questions come the ultimate opportunity to connect with Jesus and build a solid relationship with the One who will carry us through.
— Jordan Matthews, New England Patriots wide receiver
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.