(Photo courtesy of Old Dominion Athletics)

As my desire for ministry began to grow, I began to consult the advice of friends and family. And there was one resounding theme among most people.

Don't do it.

It wasn't as much of a no as it was a not now. You've proven everybody wrong and earned the D1 scholarship. You've patiently bided your time and earned the starting job. You even had the big wins every kid dreams about.....and now you just want to leave all that behind?

Yes. Yes I do. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but I know I have made the right choice.

I was asked recently if there was a sense of guilt about my decision. Not only was I going against the advice of some of my most trusted friends, but I was walking away from the program we were building at ODU. But the honest answer is no. I didn't feel guilty then, and I don't feel guilty now. Serving God's call is what I need to do and what I want to do.

The coolest thing was that once I made the choice to quit football, the support was unanimous. Once they realized my decision was final, all those people who had advised against that decision were now supporting me 100 percent.

Will I miss football? Maybe. But I don't want a win over Virginia Tech to be my biggest accomplishment in life. There's so many people out there who struggle with their faith, and I want to be in a position to help them.

One of the coolest things was that in the aftermath of my decision, there's been no second-guessing on my part. I feel so much peace and joy that I am doing what God wants me to do. Mark Twain once said the two most important days of your life are the day you're born and the day you realize why, and I truly believe I am on the path that God had always intended for me.

I'm still at Old Dominion right now, leading a Bible Study with some teammates and preparing for graduation in May.

People sometimes ask me if I would ever consider being a football coach in the future; after all, my previous plan was to go into coaching after I was done playing. Who knows where God will have me in 5, 10, 15 years. I sure don’t. Could it be coaching? If that is where God leads me that is where I’ll be. All you  have to do is look at someone like Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to realize you can be involved in ministry and coaching at the same time.

Divinity school is a three-year program, and the idea is that once I've finished all 88 credit hours, I'll be in a better position to share my faith with others. I know people have questions about God and the Bible, and I want to help in any way I can.

Even before I attend my first day of Divinity school, I know this already: Jesus is real. We might not be able to see Him, but I truly believe He's as real as anything in this world. And that He loves you. Even while we were still sinners, Jesus died on a cross just so that we could be forgiven for our sins.

I like to tell people that it's not as much about a religion as it is a relationship with Jesus. The nice thing is that you'll never have to worry about His end of the relationship. He'll always be there for us, no matter what we've done, and there's never an inconvenient time for Him to hear your prayer.

The question is, if you feel God calling you as well, will you answer?

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Thomas Hager1 Comment