David Wheaton - Wimbledon

David Wheaton speaks to FOL

by Sunny Joseph

Born in Minnesota in 1969 as the youngest of four children, David Wheaton has indeed lived a unique life. Tossed his first tennis balls by his mother when he was just four years old, he developed into one of the top professional players in the world. David won the Minnesota State High School tennis tournament in 1984 as a 9th grader. In 1987, he finished his junior tennis and academic career in style earning the number one junior ranking in America, winning the U.S. Open junior title, and becoming the valedictorian of his senior class. David led Stanford to the NCAA team title in 1988, and received the Block S award as the most outstanding freshman athlete at Stanford. Shortly thereafter, he turned professional on Independence Day in 1988. As a professional, David played thirteen years on the Tour and achieved a career high world ranking of number 12 in 1991. He won the largest prize money event in tennis--the Grand Slam Cup--in Munich in 1991. He also had his best career results in the Grand Slam events reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of both the U.S. and Australian Opens.

FOL : How can an upcoming sportsperson stay constantly focused on pleasing God while there are a number of temptations, peer pressures, and demands to compromise?
DW : A true follower of Christ desires to follow God and senses His will in everything. All of us carry in our flesh the unredeemed part of that is not perfected. This imperfect part battles against the flesh constantly. But when one maintains a constant relationship with God, feeds on the Word of God and keeps to a regular fellowship with the Church, thereby live a life of no compromise and win our battle over temptations. This keeps us from falling for the pressures of this world and thereby we can stay focused on pleasing God.

FOL : I have heard many young sports person say that it may cost them a tournament, a chance to get selected or even being ridiculed if they stay religious while on the team. How does one handle this specially if he or she is just getting up the ladder of success?
DW : Being a Christian on the team doesn't mean forcing my faith on others and pushing my religion on everybody, on the contrary it is living my faith. I am in the team to play and so I play hard, work hard keep my integrity and give my best and live up to the expectations of my team and my country. God and men do reward hard and honest work. Well, for any discrimination of any reason when one is out of selection, remember, Matthew 5:10-12 says, "Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." This is the right attitude Jesus taught us to handle situations like this. As Christian sportsperson we do not feel disappointed instead we rejoice in such situation where we are counted worthy bear the rejection for Christ.

FOL : What do you have to say to those sportspersons in India and Asian context who have lost better opportunities in sports career for their faith in Christ?
DW : Being a Christian does not guarantee absolute success. The attitude of every Christian sportsperson should be to honor God in whatever capacity God uses them. Every sportsperson must believe that being a Christian on a day to day basis is more important than being selected at all times. It does more good to us when we believe that nothing ever happens to a Christian unless God permits it.

FOL : Why do most people who come into any industry with a strong Christian faith lose or leave their Christian faith behind, while others who come with little or no proper Christian faith find it after having experienced good success?
DW : A desire to be men pleasers instead of being God pleasers is the root cause why people forget God when they taste fame and success. After the initial dose of success they fall for a strong desire to be always successful and an obsession to be liked by people. They fear that the momentum may stop bringing to an end their fame. In order to keep the success story alive most of them do what they feel is good in self-confidence. These small temptations when not handled correctly, results in self-dependence and it is pride. When one becomes self-reliant, God is left out. This leads to a life of pride and we know that pride goes before a fall.

FOL : What is your purpose in life?
DW : My priority in life is to have a daily relationship with Christ and feed on His Word thereby to become more like Jesus.


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