We talked with former NFL kicker Todd Peterson about his faith journey, how he’s living in the increase of Christ, and the mentors who have impacted his life. Here’s what he had to say:
What effect does your faith have on your lifestyle?
Before I trusted and knew Christ as my personal Savior, I had my fair share of issues — still am a work in progress. One of those things was I could let fly a curse word just like any other guy. After I came to faith in Jesus, I stopped cussing immediately. It was one of the instantaneous changes that happened in my life — my words were new and I was able to take my thoughts captive. That was probably the most noticeable before-after thing I saw happen in my life. And that is a pretty big deal in a college football and then NFL locker room; suddenly I stopped talking the way most of the other guys talked.
Over time, there are many things that have transformed in my life to make me more like Jesus. These changes aren’t always instantaneous, but they’re part of the sanctifying process. When we surrender to Him, God creates in us a clean heart and a right spirit (Psalm 51:10). We are called out of darkness and into light. As the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work took root in my life, I went from a man full of insecurities and worries, no peace, who was focused on performing for acceptance, to a man who was full of the peace, joy and security found in Christ. After this, I was able to perform out of a place of acceptance, instead of performing for acceptance.
Describe how your journey with Christ began.
Though I grew up in the Church, I never really understood the Gospel or grasped the idea of God desiring a personal relationship with us as His children. The only way we can have that personal relationship with Him is by confessing our sins and giving control over to Jesus, allowing Him to pay the price for our sins that we could never pay ourselves. This concept was never presented to me in a way that I could connect to. Coming to know and understand Christ was a multi-year process for me, one that was covered in a lot of prayer among a lot of people.
It was a faith renewal weekend that led to my salvation. Since then, my life has been rooted in the verse found in 1 Corinthians 1:25, which says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” This truth revealed to me that I was living in a performance-based trap, trying to live as good as I could in every facet of life — in sports, in school, in wisdom, in relationships, etc. But Scripture clearly says that none of our efforts are going to be fruitful in and of themselves. We can’t muster anything “good” compared to our God. So why wouldn’t I surrender my life to the God of the universe, the God who created me and has a great plan for my life? He wants to make us really good at what He created us to do, so that we can be the best witness to the world for Him.
Who have been the mentors in your life? How did God bring these people into your life?
I’ve had many men who have been great influencers in my life. In college, there were a few men who discipled me, really invested in me. I looked up to these Godly men and knew that they led lives worth emulating. My NFL chaplain in Seattle discipled me for six years. His knowledge of the Word, his love for the Word, and his ability to defend his faith were so attractive to me. I wanted to speak the Word into people’s lives in a way that really made a difference, and I saw how God used him to do that for me and many others.
There have also been a handful of men within the sports ministry world and in the business world who are older and wiser than me, guys I feel like I can learn from when it comes to marriage, parenting, giving, investing, leading and serving.
I’ve always believed that 2 Timothy 2 is the best model of discipleship. The way Paul, Timothy and Barnabas did life is the way we all need to do life — in community, sharpening each other. I know I need well-rounded, influential people in my life who can counsel and encourage me to be more like Christ.
What does the increase of Christ mean to you?
For me, it’s pretty pragmatic — it starts with a daily surrender to Christ. I can see the difference in my life when I do choose to surrender and when I don’t. Likewise, my wife and kids can see the difference as well. Each day, I start the day by very practically and vocally humbling myself before God to say, “Here I am, on my knees, bowed down before You Lord God, surrendered to You. I choose to decrease this day. In Your grace and mercy, and with Your desire to use me, would You increase in me today? Use me to accomplish Your work and good purposes here on earth in order to bring You God great glory and honor in Heaven.”
It’s a mindset and lifestyle of reflecting Christ by working heartily and mightily unto the Lord, not looking to serve man. This is not only a good idea, it’s a basic command found in the Bible to humble and surrender ourselves, inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives. We have to ask Him to help us —- He is the Helper and Jesus said He was leaving Him to help us. When we choose this, we no longer walk according to the flesh, we walk controlled by the Spirit.
What is your life verse and why?
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” — Proverbs 22:29 (NASB)
God created us to be really good at what He’s gifted us to do. When we are really invested in this, we’re acting as good stewards of what He’s given us. He’s designed us and given us unique experiences, gifts and talents to contribute to His Kingdom. When you’re excellent at what you do, you have influence.
The lightbulb moment for me in regards to this truth happened when I realized I was really good at football and it gave me a big audience. The big question then became, “Am I going to use that influence to serve myself or other people?”
— Todd Peterson, former NFL kicker
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.