Mark S. Mitchell

Pastor, Writer, Follower of Jesus

The Strength of an Ox

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I was 21 years old, entering my senior year of college at Cal Poly. It was training camp. I had returned to playing football at Cal Poly after taking my junior year off. I had felt a clear call from God a few months earlier to return to football to be a witness for Christ on the football team and to all the athletes at Cal Poly. At the time, there was really no witness for Christ in that arena to speak of. All the scholarship athletes lived in what were called “the Jock Dorms” and it was a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah — a very dark place with a lot of bad stuff going on.

As training camp began, I was feeling pretty alone. I also felt overwhelmed with the task ahead of me, not only contributing on the field, but more so in my Christian witness. On both counts, the odds were stacked against me!

One day I came home from practice and noticed a scrap of paper someone had taped to my door at the dorm. I pulled it off and read the words,

Where there are no oxen, there is no grain;
          abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

To be honest, at first reading I had no idea what this verse meant or how it related to me. But the more I pondered it, the more I began to see that I was that ox! Abundant crops come through the strength of just one ox! I believed then, and I believe today, that God was speaking to me through that obscure verse. He was saying, “I see you. I know you feel alone. I know you feel overwhelmed by the task. But I am with you and I will use you. Your efforts will result in abundant harvest for my kingdom.”

This was the encouragement I needed to keep on going. The results were exactly what God had promised. Within a year there were 40 athletes attending a bible study. Several of them came to Christ and are serving Jesus today. It encourages me to remember that it only takes one faithful man to make a big difference.

To this day, I do not know who left that note on my door, but I am thankful that they took the time to think about encouraging me. We all need encouragement, and there’s nothing more encouraging than a word from God.

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