Those Who Wait Upon the Lord


The world of sports holds numerous inspirational stories of men and women athletes. When I think of lessons they carry, three stories I have read come to mind, men who overcame issues in their lives that required extra effort to succeed. Daniel Eugene Ruettiger, Brandon Vaughn Burlsworth, and Glenn Vernice Cunningham are three men who battled through challenges that would cause others to give up. However, through courage and determination, each man succeeded in reaching their goal.

Daniel “Rudy” Ruttiger stood at  5’6” and weighed 165 pounds when he desired to play football for Notre Dame. Raised in a Catholic home, he attended a Catholic school and served in the U.S. Navy before applying to Norte Dame. Turned down due to grades, he entered Holy Cross and improved enough to gain acceptance to Notre Dame. Rudy was a walk-on football player with little chance of making the squad due to his size and athletic ability. Through hard work and determination, he made the practice squad with Coach Dan Devine suiting him up for the final game of his senior year, officially making him a Notre Dame football team member. The “Rudy Award” was established to honor Division 1 players demonstrating character, courage, contribution, and commitment. 

Brandon Burslworth was a pudgy 300-pound lineman when he graduated in 1994 from Harrison High School. He received athletic scholarship offers from smaller schools but desired to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He applied to the University of Arkansas and was a walk-on for the Razorbacks. He had the money to attend for one year but would need a scholarship to remain at the school. His physical attributes were a detriment to his goal. Brandon worked hard and eventually made the team as a redshirt freshman. He transformed his chubby 300 pounds into 260 pounds of muscle, earning a scholarship. Brandon would become an outstanding player and eventually drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Killed in an auto accident eight days after being drafted, Brandon always credited God for what he gained. Each year, the Burlsworth Trophy is given to an outstanding player who began as a walk-on.

Glenn Cunningham was eight years old in 1917 when he and his older brother arrived at school one morning to light the stove in the small schoolhouse in Kansas. His brother accidentally used gasoline instead of kerosine, which caused an explosion killing him and severely burning Glenn’s legs. The doctors told his family that Glenn would probably never walk again. Through his mother’s efforts and Glenn’s determination in the summer of 1919, he began to try and walk again. Like the others, he put his faith and trust in God for strength. Glenn not only learned to walk again, he learned to run. In 1934 he set a world record for the mile run at 4:06.8, a record that stood for three years. He set another world record in 1936 in the 800m and in 1938 in the indoor mile. He came in second in the 1500m in the 1936 Olympics and was selected as the “Most Popular Athlete” by his fellow Olympians. Later in life, he and his wife opened the Glen Cunningham Youth Ranch in Kansas, helping over 10,000 abused and needy children.

Glenn’s favorite Bible verse was taken from Isaiah 40: “Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  Isaiah 40:31 (NASB) As I write this column, I can look over my desk and see a picture of an eagle in flight, with these words printed below. The words remind me that we can achieve great things if we continually put our trust in God. Too often, when we face challenges, we give up without trying. Maybe we fear failure or see a lack of confidence in our abilities to succeed. We often fail not because we tried but because we didn’t even attempt to face the challenge.

No matter what we go through in life, God always remains at our side. God will raise us up when times are tough and strengthen us when we need to fly. He will carry us when we’re tired and always be there to cheer us on in the trials we face. In verse 29 of Isaiah 40, we read, “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might, he increases power.” Next time you feel defeated, think about others who have shown us that we can overcome life’s challenges. However, most of all, remember, “Those that wait upon the Lord” can learn to fly.

Danny Minton is a former Elder and minister at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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