by Dale Reeves
We received the incredible news Wednesday morning that Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin was discharged from Buffalo General Medical Center just nine days after collapsing on the field at Paycor Stadium due to cardiac arrest in the first quarter of the Cincinnati Bengals-Buffalo Bills game. Praise God!
I wasn’t going to write about it again this week, but I feel compelled to! I said to a few members of our staff at Christ’s Church this Wednesday, “This has almost been like a 9/11 moment.” No, it was not a threat to our national security. No, 3,000 lives were not lost, as they were in the catastrophic event that took place at the World Trade Center towers. But, what transpired at Paycor Stadium on Monday, January 2, is similar to 9/11 in that those who were in the stadium or were watching on their TV sets at home will never forget that moment when we realized how fragile life can be. Millions of people left their TVs on as the medical personnel administered CPR on Damar Hamlin, and those in the stadium that night watched in stunned silence.
Someone said to me at church last Sunday, “People lose their lives on their jobs every day. But we don’t talk about them.” “That is true,” I replied, “but millions of people don’t witness it happening on national TV.” This moment was a wake-up call for all families whose livelihood is connected to the NFL, and I believe it was a wake-up call for untold thousands.
Calling on the God of Power
This story has reached far beyond those who are avid football fans in America. As a result of what we witnessed, how many people have committed to take a CPR class this year so that they might be prepared for a situation that might arise someday when they have the opportunity to save someone’s life? And, how many thousands lifted up a prayer on behalf of Damar to a God they may not have ever spoken to before?
Throughout the past week and a half, we have seen the results of what we as a nation collectively did in obeying this challenge from the psalmist:
“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15, NIV).
In this story, all three things happened.
- We as a nation collectively called on God in the day of trouble.
- God delivered Damar Hamlin from an early death.
- God has been honored and glorified in many ways.
In his January 5th article in the Wall Street Journal, “How Damar Hamlin Drove a Nation to Pray,” writer Barton Swaim shared these words:
“The idea that prayer is improper at big-time sporting events was forgotten on Monday night. . . . Any legal or cultural prohibitions attaching to sporting-event prayers were, for the moment, rescinded. Suddenly prayer—the ancient activity of speaking to God in the belief that he can hear and respond—was everywhere. Top-level coaches and players, former and present, posted appeals to ‘Pray for Damar.’”
Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations at the National Football League, told reporters, “I think we all have to recognize the power of prayer from coaches, players, the staff and the fans that was in that stadium, and the people watching from around the world. There is power in prayer.”
Praising the God of Power
When Bengals’ coach Zac Taylor heard the news that Damar had been released from the UC Medical Center and was heading back to his home in Buffalo, Zac beamed, “There’s no one in this room that would have expected he would be in Buffalo. God is great. He works miracles. This was certainly a miracle. There’s no question.”
Buffalo Bills’ head coach, Sean McDermott has been giving honor to God as well: “Glory to God for His keeping Damar and his family in the palm of His hand over the last couple of days and His healing power.” During his tenure as head coach for the Bills since 2017, McDermott has not shied away from speaking about his faith. In speaking about his coaching in Buffalo, McDermott has said, “I believe that God’s plan prevails, and God had a plan. He ordained this to happen for me to come to Buffalo with my family. . . . I just know God’s in control.”
As Damar was traveling from Cincinnati to Buffalo early this week, he tweeted,
“Watching the world come together around me on Sunday was truly an amazing feeling. The same love you all have shown me is the same love that I plan to put back into the world n more. Bigger than football!”
This past Sunday, in his “He Has the Power” sermon, our senior minister Brad Wilson closed with these words:
“Jesus has the power. He is the authority. It’s his kingdom, and it has to be his way. I want you to experience transformation this year. I want you to experience the power of Jesus working in your life this year. I want this for you because I know that if you will submit to his authority, then not only will your life change for the better, but those in your sphere of influence will change as well!”
As we turn our attention to Wild-Card Weekend in the NFL, we can respond in one of two ways. We can get back to business as usual until the next life-threatening injury takes place, and just allow this trendy “flash-in-the-pan” call for collective prayer to fade away . . . or we can decide this is indeed a wake-up call for us to get serious about our relationship with the God who created us.
You get to decide. Which will it be?
“But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” (Romans 13:11, 12, The Message).