We talked with San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jordan Matthews 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?
My faith has changed everything for me. Probably the biggest thing that has changed since I gave my life to Christ is the way I see people. I see people now. Before I had a real relationship with Jesus, I didn’t really pay attention to others around me. At school, I would be nice to the people who had no friends, not because of who they were or what Jesus did in me, but because I didn’t want to be on their bad side. My motives were all wrong; relationships were all about what I could get out of them.
It was during my second year in the NFL when I really started to get serious about my faith and my relationship with Jesus. That’s when I began to dive into God’s Word. From that point on, everything changed. Sometimes I need to make myself do the football stuff because otherwise I’ll be preoccupied in conversations with a person at the facility. I can sit and talk with a custodian, team chef, trainer or a guy on defense for hours, just learning about their life and family. I now have real friendships with these people.
The Bible talks about being nearsighted in our sin (2 Peter 1:9), and I can’t think of a better image than the life I used to live. The only things that mattered to me were those that were right in front of me in the moment. Now, when I fall to my knees in prayer, it’s not all about me or how I can get better. While our natural default is to be selfish, the Spirit gives us an awareness of others around you.
How did your journey with Christ begin?
Nothing super traumatic had to happen in my life for Christ to get my attention, but I got to the point where I realized there had to be more. I remember during my second year, while I was playing really badly, I went to an autograph signing. The year before, I went to the same signing and had a line out the door, but that year, I had two people show up. Literally two people.
Once the god in my life — football — revealed itself for what it was, I knew I needed true substance. I realized football was a fleeting, performance-based institution. It was then that I was able to put football in its place. It would no longer be my sun, moon and stars. My life can’t depend on a good day at practice. I had to reevaluate my foundation.
At that time, when I played well, I went out, drank and partied with women. When I had a bad day, I went out, drank and partied with women. I started hanging out with Trey Burton (now one of my best friends); Trey will shoot you straight. I needed that. I needed someone who would ask you, “Is that what you want your legacy to be?” He came into areas of my life and made me uncomfortable in ways I needed to be.
But he was consistent and did it in a way that showed he truly loved me. He didn’t give me the easy way out because he knew I’d thank him for it later. While on the Eagles I hung out with Trey, Chris Maragos, Nick Foles and Emmanuel Acho. I saw the joy in their hearts and soon knew that the common denominator among them was that they all had Jesus.
Did I want to win the Super Bowl? Of course, and I would strive for that. But at the same time I had to ask myself what I really want for my life. I want peace, I want joy, I want to be able to come in and put a smile on people’s faces. And by the time I’m done playing, I want to know I left the place better than it was before I was there.
Who have been the mentors in your life? How did God bring these people into your life?
Trey Burton, Chris Maragos, Nick Foles, Ted Winsley, Kyle Warner and my parents, Rod and Brenda Matthews. It was a great moment when I finally came to the point when I was able to be honest with my parents about where I was with my faith. I grew up in the Church but we never had deep conversations or theological discussions with each other. For me to be able to confess the things that were going on in my life, and for them to be so loving and transparent with me about the things they struggle with, while learning how much they pray for me, that was special. My dad still fasts for me almost weekly during the season. To have that kind of love and support is amazing.
What does the increase of Christ mean to you?
Even when we prioritize Christ in our lives, we are most likely still doing Him a disservice. When we say “faith, family, football,” that’s still an insult to what our faith is all about. If we were able to gain even a small glimpse of Jesus Christ and what is to come, everything else in our lives would seem so small.
You know you’re in the Spirit when you’re so full of the Lord that nothing else matters. I love the verse John 3:30 because it emphasizes that we need to decrease. The biggest problem for us is that we put so much weight on the things of this world. By the time my 70-80 years are up on this earth, I don’t want to get to Heaven and wonder, “Why didn’t I talk to that person about Jesus? Why was I so afraid to love the way Jesus loves? Why did I waste so much time doing ____?” If we are living passive or silent lives, we have to ask ourselves, “How much do I really believe this?” If we really do believe and follow Christ, He must increase in our lives. And He can’t just be the bigger thing, He needs to be the only thing.
If I’m not on this team and with this organization to impact lives and show Jesus Christ to the men I’m in the locker room with, then I’m not worthy of this platform at all. Daily, I need to take time to think about the weight of who He is and who we are in light of that.
What is your life verse and why?
Galatians 1:10 which says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
When you look at every single one of Paul’s letters, he defines himself as, “Paul, a servant of Christ.” This is his identity. For me, this verse tells me, “Check yourself, Jordan. What are you really doing this for? Are you trying to please people or God?” I try my best to put everything I do under this lens. This is how I want to be identified — as a servant of Christ.
Jordan Matthews is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions. Check out Jordan’s Increase profile: https://theincrease.com/author/jordan-matthews/
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