My life changed completely during the 2012 London Olympics — that was when I learned about Jesus. Someone came inside the Olympic village to pray and share the Word of God with us. In the past, I did everything in my own strength, which can be a heavy burden. But when I met Jesus and began to let Him work in and through me, things became easier.
As an athlete, and as a human, your heart aches when you lose, when you get injured, or when things do not go as expected. One day, my pastor shared this truth with me: “Remember, Jesus was crucified and was in the tomb for three days, but He arose the third day.” We will pass through these hard times. For those who believe in Jesus Christ, there is hope that better days are to come. The worst thing that could happen to an athlete like me is to not qualify for the Olympic Games. But even if that did happen, it would not change my life, who I am or the purpose I have in Christ.
One of the best lessons I learned was back in 2013. If they had given me 2.5 more points in a competition, we could have won, but they didn’t and we didn’t win. God brought to my memory the 13th verse from the fourth chapter in the book of Philippians in the Bible, which says, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” At that moment, I realized that I had never put attention to the previous verse 12, which says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” In order to be a champion, you must learn to enjoy every season, and that includes losing and winning.
I experienced another trial when I had an Achilles heel injury. I cried and complained during this time, questioning God by asking, “Why now? Why me? What am I doing wrong?” Then I remembered a time I was taking a shower and I told God, “I want You to use my life. I surrender my life to You for Your glory through sports.” This does not only happen through victory. God helped me understand that this can happen during failure as well.
This is how I face losing now. It was after this major injury that I took courage to start a Bible study with other sportspersons. I invited them to come to my house to pray with me. They came thinking they were there to encourage me, but I used this opportunity to share God’s purpose with them, since the purpose of my life is not to be an Olympic medalist but to be a man who fears God.
When I joined our national team, I was not a Christ-follower. After I met Jesus, I became intentional in the way I conducted myself to be a good witness. When my teammates, who profess other beliefs, know that I believe in Jesus and they see me praying, they respect it. And sometimes, they allow me to pray with them. It is not my role to convince people about their faith, but I can model Jesus in my life so they can see Him in me.
The way I live my life plays a key role in sharing Jesus with others. I am not perfect, but I can impact people by what I do more than by what I say. I often have people ask me, “How do you keep a positive attitude?” Or, “How can you maintain such confidence under the pressure of these competitions?” When they come to me for counsel, I can share Jesus’ love with them.
I understand it is vital to believe in Jesus in order to serve and help others. I cannot imagine my life without Him.
—German Sánchez, Mexican diver