By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
God has a tremendous sense of humor.
Four years ago, in the fall of 2014, I was watching my beloved South Carolina Gamecocks play the University of Tennessee. Yes, I realize I was one of the few people in Tennessee pulling for the Gamecocks that night. The game was excruciatingly close. Several times late in the game, South Carolina would pull ahead of Tennessee and it looked like we might win. But every time we went ahead, Tennessee would respond, usually behind the passing or running of quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
Dobbs was a one-man wrecking crew that night, accounting for five touchdowns as Tennessee won that game, 45-42 in overtime. My heart was broken. Needless to say, I wasn’t a Dobbs fan, although I had to admire his grit and determination. He refused to lose that game.
Fast forward to 2018. I am sitting in the sanctuary of Red Bank Baptist Church in Chattanooga listening to (you guessed it) Joshua Dobbs talk football. But more important, Joshua Dobbs talked about Jesus and His relationship with Christ. He also encouraged hundreds of high school and middle school athletes how they, too, could know Jesus Christ. (See full story here).
Host pastor Sam Greer than shared the gospel — in a simple and concise manner — and 22 people invited Christ into their hearts.
We hear so much today of spoiled athletes who care only about their salaries and themselves. We hear about those players who want to use the national anthem as an avenue to protest. We sometimes forget there are also athletes who care deeply about others and use the talents and gifts God has blessed them with to bless others.
From all accounts, Dobbs is the real deal. His faith is strong and he’s not afraid to use the platform God has given him (football) as a tool to reach others.
Any number of people could have presented a program at Red Bank on that Friday night, but Joshua Dobbs was a name that those kids and coaches recognized and respected. Not only did Dobbs have a sterling career at UT, he is on the roster of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
So, when he speaks of the importance of good grades and hard work and discipline, both in the classroom and on the playing field, those teenagers listened. With a 4.0 average in aerospace engineering, Dobbs practiced “what he preached” while he was a student. Kids relate to that because they can spot a phony a mile away.
He gave those young men some practical advice as well. He challenged them to surround themselves with positive influences. “You’re a direct microcosm of the people around you,” he told the players. Translated, if you hang out with the students who skip class, drink and participate in drugs, you are more prone to participate in those activities as well.
Dobbs also shared one other piece of advice that is good not only for those players, but for all Christians everywhere. “You have to live life as if a camera is following you around.” Good words, because in today’s culture, you’re only a cell phone photo or video away from having your face and actions posted for the whole world to see. Actually, it might be better to say, “live life as if Jesus is watching” because He is.
Dobbs is not special because he has the platform of football to share the gospel. He is special because he actually uses the platform God has given him.
God has given all of us a platform. Everyone who has professed Christ as Lord and Savior has a unique testimony. We might not have the opportunity to speak to hundreds of football players on any given night, but we can use the platform God has given us in our daily lives, whether it be in the classroom, on the printed page or talking to co-workers in the break room. Whatever situation you are in, let others see Jesus in you and through you.
Dobbs closed his presentation by noting that he has played on numerous teams throughout his life. One characteristic of those teams is that they eventually end. Players graduate, move on to other teams or finally give up the game. But, he told those young men that one team never ends and that is Team Jesus.
I wasn’t a huge Joshua Dobbs fan four years ago, but I am now. Follow his example and use your God-given platform to tell others about the love of Jesus Christ.