After tearing cartilage in his knee on the last play of practice one afternoon last fall, professional football player Trent Dilfer wrote in his prayer journal, "Lord, my knee is giving me lots of trouble since surgery a week ago. The more it hurts, the more I feel I must trust you."
His career already at a standstill nearly a year after a rising young star replaced him as quarterback, Dilfer prayed the injury would draw him closer to God and make him more sensitive to divine purposes. "I also pray that your Spirit would allow me an attitude of great joy and peace in the midst of this setback," he wrote. "Lord, I trust that you would use this attitude to encourage somebody else on my team who is experiencing a setback of their own."
In an age when athletes flush with victory give thanks to Jesus on national TV, Dilfer personifies the quiet, unseen side of the faith of Christians in the National Football League (NFL). Like any other believer at work, Dilfer exercises his faith not so much in stardom's glory but in the crucible of everyday aches and frustrations.
After finishing below. 500 in 1998, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers replaced Dilfer during the 1999 campaign and went on to win a division championship. High expectations—he was the sixth player selected in the first round of the 1994 NFL draft and led the Buccaneers to a playoff victory in 1997—died down when the Buccaneers traded Dilfer to the Baltimore Ravens after six seasons. He went from backing up rookie sensation Shaun King in Tampa Bay to backing up highly touted Tony Banks in Baltimore.
"I couldn't be more thankful that in the past couple of years God has allowed me to deal with a great deal of change, adversity, and unknowing, because my greatest growth usually comes ...1
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