Jacques Cesaire was a defensive lineman with the San Diego Chargers for nine seasons. During his time, he was not only known for his sacks, but he was also a leader on, and off, the field. Cesaire uses his athletic background as a platform to share his faith through outreach events like Superfest San Diego. Risen talked with Cesaire five years ago about how his faith guided his time in the NFL and how he responds to being persecuted about his faith.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26
Cesaire opens up how his mother impacted his spiritual life and how his faith affected his time in the NFL.
“It’s funny, my mom handed me my first Bible. She told me to pray and I thought it was silly. But I kind of gave it a shot and in the beginning, it’s like this with all Christians, you feel good saying, ‘Hey, I’m praying.’ I had a lot of conviction in my heart and I knew God was changing my heart from the inside. As I grew in my spirituality, I knew I had to take more pointed steps than just praying before a game. I knew I had to really study the Word of God [Bible] and become a man of God in order to make it in this league. People may not know this, but there are a lot of Christians in the NFL, a lot of mean of faith in the league. Not a lot of men may wear it on their sleeves, which I think they should, but for me, I know I needed God in my life during the NFL season. You have so many ups and downs, so many things going on in your life, but if you have that one constant rock in your life, you’ll have peace…Success for me is what kind of impact I can make on someone’s life. Obviously, God has given me a platform to work with and I can’t just sit and hot it all for myself. I need to give out as much knowledge as I can because that’s what people did for me when I got into the league. [Our team] has won games, we’ve lost games, but it’s the imprint that you leave on people’s lives that is important.”
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.” 1 Timothy 4:8-9
Cesaire shares about his experience on being persecuted for being a Christian in the NFL.
“Not really from any of the players. Everybody kind of respects everybody and they respect the decisions you make and how you live. Some people say, ‘Do you really pray that much? Do you really believe in God?’ I [tell them] that I can’t look at my daughter or my son and not believe in God. I see him in my life through my kids. You have to approach one day at a time. Obviously, the devil is always looking to accuse you for something in front of God. Don’t ever start a day without getting on your knees. Don’t ever go to sleep without getting on your knees, because it’s a rough world out there and you need Christ in your life every day.”
Use your platform. Whether you are a professional athlete, in your career, a student or parent, God has placed each of us in circles of influence. It can be one person, a small group or an outreach of hundreds. God wants you to share your faith story, what He has taught you, how you came to know Him and what you have learned along the way. If you have never shared your testimony, take time to write it out. Ask a friend, small group member, pastor or ministry leader if you can share your testimony with them and if they would be willing to give you feedback. Then start sharing away. Pray and ask God to give you courage and boldness to share your story.
Turn to God if you are persecuted. It can be a sharp comment, ridicule or threats. God wants you to turn to him. Ask Him what you should do and how you should respond. Ask Him to give you wisdom and insight. Ask other friends and believers if they have experienced something similar and how they responded. Take time this week to look at stories throughout the Bible and modern day of people that were persecuted for their faith. Look at how they responded and how other believers helped them.
Pray for the players and coaches that are believers. Pray that God would use them as a light in the NFL to other players, coaches, fans and students. Pray that God would strengthen their marriages and families as they travel. Pray that God would give them opportunities to share about their faith with others. Pray that they would have time to have Bible studies and mentor other players.
To read our entire interview with Jacques Cesaire, click here.