We were in church every Sunday growing up. My brothers and sisters and I would even sing in our family group in front of the church every once in a while, and we spent a lot of time in the Word together memorizing verses. But with family complications, independence and basketball taking the lead of my life, my faith increasingly became less important. It ended up just being something I referred to every now and then when life got hard and things weren’t going so well for me on the court.
Last year, right around the time I was drafted to the Orlando Magic, I had a moment when all of that changed for me. I attended an optional chapel service held before every game. I still had faith, and in a way going to chapel was my way of confirming that to myself. That day the chaplain started with the verse Luke 6:46, in which Jesus says, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Those words really shocked me! Somewhat because I didn’t even know that was in the Bible, but more so because I couldn’t picture Jesus being so stern. Around this time in my life “grace” is what I’d cling to in times of disobedience and carelessness for Jesus’ teachings. So, learning about Jesus saying that really made me think. I thought about it so much it affected my game and even my sleep. I thought, “Wow, He’s talking to me! I say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but in certain areas of my life I couldn’t care less about what Jesus had to say.” Suddenly, I found myself at a fork in the road. I couldn’t live with being an imposter; I was either going to be a Christian or not.
I went through a time of just seeking the Lord, and in seeking Him (long story short) I found Him. I have seen God keep His promises.
While I was seeking and asking God to show me if this was real, He kept bringing this man into my life — a pastor. In developing a relationship with this pastor — going to church and really growing my hunger for God, and knowing this desire wasn’t a coincidence but exactly what God wanted from me — I dove in. I became all about His Word, all about His people (by the grace of God).
In one instance of reading, I felt like I came to an understanding of what I believed to be a key principle of faith in Jesus. So one morning, all fired up, I asked the pastor if I could preach at his church — and he said, “Why not?” He didn’t even ask what I wanted to speak about! He just told me he knew I could do it.
It’s been a real encouragement to my faith to see myself step out and speak, because I’ve always battled with anxiety and the fear of messing up. If you would have asked anybody from Florida State (my alma mater), or from my earlier years, if Jonathan could get up and speak in front of anybody (let alone in a church), the answer would be no.
To me, the fact that I was able to do this, and continue to do so, confirms God’s power — simply because I know without a doubt it was not by my own ability. Being able to do something I knew I could never do, or even want to do, has skyrocketed the level of my faith!
As we continue to grow in our faith and understanding of God, keeping our eyes on Jesus and growing closer to Him and what He has to say, the better follower of His we become. I hope Luke 6:46 challenges you like it did me!
— Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic forward
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.