We talked with Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye 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?
It starts with Christ every day. The longer the day goes, the easier it is to say, “I’ll catch up with God later.” The best habit I’ve made since I got to the NBA is giving my first time of the day to God — in the Bible, praying and reading a devotional or word of encouragement someone sent me. This sets me on the right path for the day. That communion with God is a must-have in my life. Making this a habit has changed the way I go into each day, and it has helped me bounce back from the unknown, which can be scary without Christ.
How did your journey with Christ begin?
My dad was from Nigeria and he brought my family over here right before I was born. He struggled to become established in America, and that struggle brought them to a church. It wasn’t until I went to college that I came face to face with God for myself and realized He was someone I needed and wanted, not just someone I turned to when I needed help.
I didn’t perform well at Duke, my first college. For the first time in my life, I was depressed from making basketball way bigger than it should have been. I finally came to a point where I said, “Either I let this define me and sink into depression, or I take God seriously.” From that point on, I have sought God more than basketball. From there, my relationship has grown. This is when I was set on a path to chase after Jesus.
Who have been the mentors in your life? How did God bring these people into your life?
My mom is first on the list. She has been a rock for me — first, by her ability to remind me about not taking God’s Word for granted, and second, by her always being there for me. She has always shown me the love of God and she treats others with that same love, no matter who they are. Her example really made me want to become more like her and more like Christ.
What does the Increase of Christ mean to you?
It’s tempting to think that once you become a Christian you have solved everything, but we are on a journey to discover who Christ really is until we go to see Him in Heaven. As long as we are on this earth, our journey to become like Christ continues. Each day we can choose to become more like Him. The journey is long, so we have to keep up the effort.
What is your life verse and why?
Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.” In our lives there are going to be times when we stumble. Life is tough. Thinking about Him being there, holding us like the small child that we are in His eyes, is a huge comfort to me. No matter what’s going on, He is always going to be there.
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