After completing his second year with the Philadelphia Eagles, Quarterback Mark Sanchez has found a greater purpose and satisfaction for life through his fellowship with the Christian community on his team.
“These past two years,” says Mark, “have been the best years that I’ve had in my walk with God.”
Mark accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at a young age while attending an Easter church service.
“I remember being in church with my mom,” he recalls, “and I was seeing all these people praising God, they were so full of joy. I turned to my mom and said, ‘I want what those people have.’”
Thereafter, Mark began to grow in his faith alongside his mother. But when life’s temptations began to grow stronger, his relationship with Jesus grew weaker.
“When I went to college,” he remembers, “and then on to the NFL, I wasn’t walking with God the way that I should have been. I didn’t surround myself with the people that I should have. It’s a tough environment because you have easy opportunities to do a lot of things that most people can’t or shouldn’t do.”
With the distractions that life in the NFL brings, Mark struggled to fix his eyes on God. But when a few of his teammates invited him to a Christian conference, Mark couldn’t find a reason to refuse.
“I had just finished my time with the Jets,” Mark says, “and my two of my teammates, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Demario Davis, encouraged me to go the Pro Athletes Outreach NFL Conference. I tried every excuse not to go but somehow I ended up there. When I heard the first message given by Miles McPherson,” he remembers, “I was blown away. God really spoke to me; I was hooked. It was so encouraging to be around so many Christian brothers in the NFL, learning to worship and grow with them.”
Sin that Mark had always struggled with started to lose it’s power as he began to seek his identity and fulfillment in Christ.
“I’ve always been really competitive, whether playing video games, basketball, or football,’ Mark admits. “I really have to watch my mouth because I want to honor God with my words. One thing that Pastor Miles said really hit me. He said, ‘Remember, when you’re on TV, people can read your lips too.’ I was really convicted. I began to think, ‘Am I using this platform the right way?’”
Not long after the Conference in 2014, Mark was signed by the Eagles. Eager to grow in his faith, he immediately began to attend the team chapels and Bible studies. This past season, Mark and a few of his teammates were able to share the love of Christ with their community in many different ways.
“One of the coolest things that we’ve done this year,” he says, “was an outreach event that we held for about 100 kids at Living Faith Christian Center (the church that is pastored by Eagles Chaplain, Ted Winsley). It was the first time that I had seen my teammates go out of their way to share their testimonies and preach the Gospel to others. Hearing Chris Maragos, Trey Burton, and a few of my other teammates open up like that was incredible to witness. I had never done anything like that before.”
Upon hearing his teammates share the Gospel with others, Mark was inspired to share his faith with the same boldness.
“We had talked in Bible studies together,” he adds, “but here they were so filled with the Holy Spirit while they were preaching to these kids. That day, 13 kids gave their lives to Christ!”
He also was able to encourage the kids in ways that he didn’t expect that day.
“The kids began to ask me questions such as, ‘What do you do about church since you can’t go on a Sunday?’” Mark remembers, “I told them, ‘Church is anytime that we are together. You don’t have to be in a building to praise God; you don’t need to be in a ‘church’ to worship, serve, and help others. Anytime that two or more are gathered and the Holy Spirit is present, God is with you.’ I didn’t plan to say any of that, but God really spoke through me.”
“For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20
Pastor Ted has seen the impact that this fellowship has had in Mark’s life and, in turn, the influence he has had in the lives of his teammates.
“Mark has been a great leader for the team both on the field and in the Bible studies,” says Ted. “He’s grown so much in his relationship with God over the past two years. Now he is eager to grow and share his faith with others.”
The temptations haven’t diminished, but he’s newly resistant to them because he’s found a purpose greater than his own desires. That purpose gives Mark strength through his growing faith in God and in the fellowship that he has with his Christian brothers.
“Sin is everywhere,” he acknowledges, “but it seems to be amplified in the NFL with the opportunities that you have at your fingertips. But having a solid group of guys to be accountable to is huge. When I know that I’m showing up to Bible study the next day and sharing life with them, it helps me keep a healthy perspective. I don’t want to let them or myself down. I want to be the best that I can be, not only as a competitor, but as a Christ-follower.”
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
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