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2003 Conversations


Joy Williams: Rooted in Grace (December 29, 2002)

Judy Rachels: Christmas gifts (December 22, 2002)

Ralph Carmichael: New music for a timeless message (December 15, 2002)

Roger and Greg Flessing: Media, ministry and society's ungodly messages (December 8, 2002)

Rick Salvato: Meeting medical and spiritual needs around the world (November 24, 2002)

Asa Hutchinson: Drug Enforcement's top officer (November 17, 2002)

Bill Bright: 'Not I, but Christ' (November 10, 2002)

Ray Berryhill: Living by faith (October 20, 2002)

Owen C. Carr: Reading through the Bible 92 times (October 13, 2002)

Curtis Harlow: Combating campus drinking (September 29, 2002)

Wes Bartel: Making Sunday count (September 22, 2002)

M. Wayne Benson: The Holy Spirit knocks (September 15, 2002)

Dr. Richard Dobbins: Understanding Suffering (September 8, 2002)

K.R. Mele: Halloween evangelism (August 25, 2002)

Roland Blount: God makes a way for blind missionary (August 18, 2002)

Cal Thomas: Finding a mission field (August 11, 2002)

Lisa Ryan: For such a time as this (July 28, 2002)

Dallas Holm: Faith and prayer in life’s toughest times (July 21, 2002)

Paul Drost: Intentional church planting (July 14, 2002)

James M. Inhofe: Serving Christ in the Senate (June 30, 2002)

Karen Kingsbury: The Write stuff (June 23, 2002)

Michael W. Smith: Worship is how you live each day (June 16, 2002)

Wayne Stayskal: On the drawing board (June 9, 2002)

Fory VandenEinde: Anyone can minister (May 26, 2002)

Thomas E. Trask: Pentecost Sunday (May 19, 2002)

Stormie Omartian: Recovering from an abusive childhood (May 12, 2002)

Luis Carrera: Beyond the Shame (April 28, 2002)

Tom Greene: The church of today (April 21, 2002)

Philip Bongiorno: Wisdom for a younger generation (April 14, 2002)

Deborah M. Gill: Christian education and discipleship (March 24, 2002)

Norma Champion: Becoming involved in politics (February 24, 2002)

Steve Pike: A candid discussion about Mormonism (February 10, 2002)

Raymond Berry: More to life than football (January 27, 2002)

Sanctity of Human Life roundtable: Doctors speak out (January 20, 2002)

Chaplain Charles Marvin: Ministering in the military (January 13, 2002)


2001 Conversations

More to life than football

(January 27, 2002)

Hall of Famer Raymond Berry played for the Baltimore Colts from 1955-1967. He led the NFL in numerous statistical categories, retiring as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver through 1967. His 12 receptions and 178 yards helped the Colts win the 1958 NFL Championship Game over the New York Giants. As head coach of the New England Patriots, he guided them to an appearance in Super Bowl XX. Today, Berry speaks extensively to both Christian groups and secular audiences. Managing Editor Ken Horn visited with Berry recently in New York.

EVANGEL: How did you come to Christ?

BERRY: I had been playing in the NFL for about four or five years for the Baltimore Colts. We played in New York for the World Championship against the New York Giants. It was an overtime game that we managed to win. At that point in my life I didn’t really give God much thought. But after the game I had an awareness of God that was totally unexpected. I began to understand that my athletic ability was a gift. The opportunity to use it was a gift. The question I had was Why? There had to be more to life than chasing a football.

My friend and teammate Don Shinnick began to talk to me about Christ. I asked him once, "How do you go about doing this, Don?" He told me what to say, and I prayed and said, "God, I’m going to trust Your Son, Jesus Christ, as my Savior, and I mean business about this. But I don’t really know what I’m doing." And that is about all I said. And that’s all I meant to say. Before that, I had never had any peace in my life. I really struggled with guilt. After I prayed and asked Christ to be my Savior, I experienced peace. I began to realize that I had been forgiven. My whole life changed. I began to get answers for my questions. I began to understand that God had a purpose for me. He had a plan for my life. For the last 40 years I have been finding out what that plan is.

EVANGEL: How did your Christian walk progress?

BERRY: I had also questioned what would happen to me when I die. I started reading the New Testament and found a tremendous amount of Scripture that dealt with eternal life. I gradually realized that eternal life was a gift that God gave believers. It was based on His love for us and what Christ did. It was not based on anything we could do. That was what grace was. You’re saved by grace and not works. That was a tremendous revelation to fully understand and have assurance that I knew where I was going to spend eternity. And it had nothing to do with my being able to earn it. It was all about mercy.

I was also searching for the purpose of life. I began to realize that the Scriptures were pointing to the purpose in life as doing the will of God. Don had told me the night he led me to Christ, "Raymond, you don’t have the power to live a Christian life. If you will trust Christ, He will come and live in you. He’s the power to live it. Your job is to let Him." I began to understand that the purpose of the Christian life was to do the will of God. I began to realize God gave me power to do His will through the Holy Spirit. I could see that in my own strength I could not do what God wanted me to do. I just had to learn to yield, submit and obey. It was encouraging to know that I could accomplish what God wanted me to do because He gave me the power to do it.

EVANGEL: Were there challenges in living a Christian life while you were in the NFL?

BERRY: I found the challenge in the Christian life was letting Jesus be Lord. As I began to study the New Testament, I began to see that man without God’s help is unable to live a life that pleases God. God sent Christ to the cross to pay for our sins and satisfy His justice. But His plan included giving us power to live a Christian life through the indwelling Christ. Christ really comes to live in the Christian. He is the power to love people, to forgive people, to carry out God’s will and plan for us. It is power we don’t have. We are not designed to have the power ourselves, we are designed to have Christ’s power in us and to submit and yield to Him. That’s a daily step-by-step process.

EVANGEL: Would you talk about the importance of the Word of God?

BERRY: As a professional football player I had a rhythm of six months on the job and six months’ off season. It gave me a tremendous opportunity for in-depth Scripture study. For the first five or six years that I was a Christian I studied a lot of New Testament Scriptures. I wrote a lot of Scriptures out on index cards. I would take them with me in the car and review. I really wasn’t consciously memorizing them, but I was ingraining the Word of God into my mind and beginning to actually commit many of them to memory. Today when I study Scripture, I really like to write my studies down. I walk two or three miles several times a week, and I will take those Scriptures with me while I’m walking and look at them and meditate on them. I have experienced the power of the Word of God. I’ve seen it work in the lives of people and have great confidence in delivering any message to an audience if the Word is in it. I know that the Word is going to do its work whether or not they remember one thing I say.

EVANGEL: Did you find many other Christians in the NFL when you were playing?

BERRY: I became a Christian in 1960. I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but I can now see that four to five years prior to that God really began to work in the NFL. People in the NFL were becoming Christians. Men were being called to minister to professional athletes and present Christ and help them grow. All of a sudden there were a lot of guys coming to know the Lord in the NFL and in professional baseball.

EVANGEL: You also coached in the NFL. Describe that experience.

BERRY: I never really cared that much about coaching when I finished playing. But in seeking God’s direction in what He wanted me to do, I realized that He wanted me to coach. I had the assurance that God called me to coach and He would give me the ability. During 20 years of coaching, I saw miraculous things. I also went through tremendous trials, disappointments, heartaches, persecutions and attacks. It wasn’t a bed of roses. But God was faithful in sustaining me and enabling me in a whole lot of victories. I’m talking spiritual victories as well as victories on the field. I grew as a Christian through having to really trust the Lord. I gradually realized that God was enabling me to stay in a position of humility so that He could work His work and that I wouldn’t get in His way. I began to understand that I could be thankful when I felt inadequate.

EVANGEL: How did it feel when you became a member of the Hall of Fame?

BERRY: When I retired, I knew that my statistical numbers would qualify me for the Hall. The numbers just say that. But it made me more aware that the only reason it happened was because God intended for it to. I knew enough about my abilities and capabilities to know by all rights it should never have happened. But God overcame a lot of things and He used me. When God creates influence, He has a reason. It’s not for my glory or my enjoyment. It’s for God’s glory and His purposes inevitably. He is interested in ministering to people and bringing people to Christ. He has given me influence so I can be a witness for Him.

EVANGEL: Anything else?

BERRY: I stand on Jeremiah 9:23,24: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord" (NKJV). In this passage God tells us where life is and where it is not. God’s priority is that we have a relationship with Him. I found a relationship with God more than 40 years ago and it is still going on.

 

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