Fourteen years in the NFL has done a lot to change Irving Fryar. The Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver is a study in contrasts as sharp as the difference between having Jesus Christ as Lord of His life and not having him
"In 1984, when I was drafted, I was on top of the world," Fryar says. "I took my eye off Christ, and He let me stumble in my own sins. Ever since I've returned to Him, He's taken me from the bottom to the top in my personal life and professional life."
The bottom was a deep pit. Fryar was the first player chosen in the '84 NFL draft. He mixed fame, fortune, and his decision to run from God. It was a near deadly blend that throughout the first part of his career left him in dangerous situations — like getting beaten and arrested for carrying a gun when he came to the rescue of a friend who was getting beat up at a night club.
That he was responding to the danger of a friend thankfully didn't change the effect the arrest made.
"I realized as I was sitting in jail that God was going to chase me and chase me and chase me until I got it right," he says now in retrospect.
Fryar has known since he was 17 that he was called to preach. He not only ignored the call, but altogether ignored Christ. Mired in off-field difficulties that left-field success less satisfying, Fryar accepted Jesus as his Savior in 1989, but even then not everything was made right.
"When I first confessed my faith, a period of three years went by and nothing happened," he explains. "I didn't tell anybody. I had been good, so to speak, for years. And people began to say, 'Maybe he got a bad rap,' But I hated people. I wouldn't go out. I'd go to work and go home, wouldn't take my wife out, wouldn't go out in public. I wasn't happy at all. "I was saved, but I really didn't know what I was doing."
The nightclub incident, and other struggles, helped put things in perspective.
"(My friend) got into the argument and was getting whipped by six guys, and I went to help him and wound up going to jail. "So I realized, all I can do different is not be there in the first place. All I can do is live for the Lord. And that excludes going to clubs. It was, 'Lord, I understand now. Now I can go forward.' That's when I accepted my calling," Fryar says.
What difference has it made?
"Now there is peace, there is direction, there is a plan, there is understanding," says Fryar, who had 736 catches for 75 touchdowns through 14 seasons. "I know what my purpose is in life. I know I'm here to share Christ. I know if I seek the Kingdom of God first, and all His righteousness, I'll know what decisions to make."
Fryar doesn't want people to wait until they're at the point he was to seek God.
"When I turned my life over to Christ, my back was against the wall," he says. "The only direction I could go was to Christ. That's a bad place to be, but in another way it's not so bad a place."
Fryar hurts for the people who can't see the advantage of knowing Christ and who are trapped by the devil's scheme-especially those who struggle and don't get embarrassed or caught, as he did.
"They see people who call themselves Christians doing things wrong, and they call us hypocrites," he says. "But they don't understand that when you become a Christian and confess your faith, that's when the devil starts messing with you more, to take those weaknesses and use them even more to try to get you back.
"Those people out having a ball-he doesn't have to mess with them because he's already got them. People who are not Christians don't understand that, and they don't have patience with Christians, then they close their mind to Christianity. When they do that, that's just the devil winning; that's another soul the devil's got. He's got them off-balance, confused about Jesus Christ and what He can do in our life, how He can put peace and love in your heart and make you a new person."
Fryar doesn't pretend that all problems stop with accepting Christ. "I've had my ups and downs, but I got a problem-solver," Fryar says. "I know how to get on my knees and pray to God every day."
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