Post image for Mark Appel, Houston Astros, No. 1 overall pick, 2013

Mark Appel, Houston Astros, No. 1 overall pick, 2013

by carmine on May 14, 2014

Spotlight Athlete Archive

Houston Astros Prospect and former Number 1 Overall Pick in the 2013 MLB Draft,  Mark Appel, took the time to sit down and do a quick interview with us at Unashamed Athletes. The former Stanford Cardinal, has a very encouraging story and is truly a disciple for Christ in the sports world.

Below are the questions and responses that Mark gave us. We hope you are as blessed and encouraged as we were.

Mark_Appel_Astros_preseason_March_2014UA: When did you start walking with the Lord, and what has your walk been like?

My walk with Jesus began when I was 10 years old. I grew up in a home that regularly went to church and my parents shared the love of Jesus with my brother and I from an early age. Honestly, being a Christian was something that I thought everyone did, so I didn’t see the need to accept Jesus in my life for a while. But once it was explained to me how, because of our selfishness and sinful nature, we are separated from God, and the only way to have a relationship with HIm was through believing in Jesus, then I knew that is what I wanted and needed. My life didn’t drastically change until I moved to California two years later. Going from a private, Christian school in Houston, Texas to a public school in California at 12 years old was quite the culture shock for me. I started to hear words that I’ve never heard before. Guys would talk about girls in ways that I didn’t know about. I felt awkward and out of place. Fortunately, our family got connected with an awesome church and we became part of a new family in California. And it was this family that, through the power of Jesus, encouraged me and helped me stay focused on eternal things and not get caught up in worldly things, even in the midst of struggles and sinful behavior that was starting to creep up inside. Because of the group of friends that I chose and how I spent my time on the weekends in high school, God was protecting me from experiences and friendships that would negatively affect my heart and soul, at the same time preparing me for what else He had in store for me.

UA: What does it mean to you to glorify the Lord both on and off the field?

63079801One of my favorite verses, which is a fairly common on, is 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “Whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This can obviously be applied to baseball, in understanding the reality of my career: I am not my own. The talent I have, even the work ethic to maximize that talent, the love I have for the game, etc… It was all given to me and developed into a product that is still a work in process. Understanding that the Lord has me here for the reason of making His name known reminds me that it isn’t about how much money I make, or how good my stats are, or about anything that doesn’t last for eternity. Jesus is concerned with the heart. He desires for us to have a heart and attitude of service and love towards Himself, and out of that love for HIm, we can truly love others the way we are called to. And through that love, we can be a reflection of the love He has for us, so that others may see His glory through our careers and lives. And this doesn’t apply to just baseball. As 1 Corinthians states, whatever we are doing, we have an opportunity to glorify God by the state of our heart focusing on the things that really matter, things that will last for eternity.

UA: How do you go about talking to teammates and opponents about your faith and what it means to you?

Bringing up the gospel can be a tough thing to do. You don’t want to be pushy, but you also your colleagues, teammates or opponents, to hear the story of Jesus because you understand how transformational it is. My best advice I can give that has worked well for me is to invest into relationships with whoever you encounter. It can take some time, but ask questions. Try to understand their background. And don’t be afraid to ask specifically about their spiritual journey. This one is especially important. Most of the time, the person you are talking to has been to church at least once, heard of Jesus, or has some other mindset/worldview that has religion or spirituality incorporated in it. Now you understand what they know about Jesus and why they either believe in Him or don’t believe in Him. But every single person that I have asked this question and heard their answer has asked me about my spiritual journey. That is the moment when I get to share the Gospel and how having a personal relationship with Jesus has changed my life. This method not only asks the person you are talking to to open up a little bit of themselves to share with you, but you also have a chance to share yourself. Vulnerability and possible uncomfortable situations might happen (I have never encountered such a situation), but when friends eternal lives are at stake, it just might be worth it.

UA: What is your favorite verse, and how does it help you live each day?

784x2048My favorite verse changes pretty often, but one that has been on my heart recently is Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve God’s will — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The mind is a powerful thing. What fills your mind daily is what comes out through your actions. It is so important to guard your mind. Someone very close to me that I seek advice and wisdom from told me this: “Thoughts become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character.” It all starts with your thoughts. Paul, writing Romans, is not only speaking of the importance of what you fill your mind with, but is calling us to renew our minds daily. This renewal takes place through a constant reminder of who we belong to (Jesus) and what we are here for (making disciples of Jesus). Spending time in the Bible and spending time in prayer are crucial!! And I’m not just talking about taking 15 minutes of your day and reading a chapter or two in the New Testament but pouring your heart, soul, mind and strength into the study of God’s Word, because His Word is living and brings life. And if we truly believe this, it will transform our mind, which in turn transforms our actions, which transforms our habits, which transforms our character. We aren’t who we say we are. Who we are depends on what we do. Character backs up your belief. And it all starts with your mind.

UA: Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” How can you take that verse into your athletic career?

The first thing that sticks out to me is that fact that it is TRUE! The Gospel IS the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes! And if we believe this to be true, then we cannot be ashamed of it, but boast in it! We can boast in what Jesus has done and rejoice in the fact that we were lost and headed towards destruction when all of a sudden, we were called by name and adopted into the kingdom of God. I am not an adopted child here on Earth, but if i were adopted into a family that loved me unconditionally, like Jesus does, then I would be both willing and excited to brag about my family! It is the same way with Jesus.

UA: How important is it to have teammates that you can fellowship with throughout the season?

Mark Appel_021712_MCE_105Having even just one teammate makes a world of difference. I have never seen the Bible talk about a faith that ends with you and Jesus. It is meant to be shared. Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is our adopted siblings in God’s family, are called to support, encourage, and carry each other’s burdens. No matter where you are in your relationship with Jesus, finding a teammate to talk to about life is so important. It is a way where we can share what God has been teaching us, not to brag, but to teach each other truths about God. It is a way where we can pray for one other and pick up each other’s burdens. It is a force where we can share the Gospel more boldly with our teammates. The church is here on Earth for a reason, and as members of the church, relationships among each other are extremely important for everyone involved!

UA: What advice would you give to other athletes who are afraid to share their faith with others?

I have been apprehensive in sharing my faith at times. The thing that gets me over the edge is asking myself, “What’s the worst thing that happens?” The worst thing would obviously be a complete rejection and disapproval to everything that you are saying. Sure, you might feel embarrassed or slightly awkward, but at the end of the day, you know that you are not your own, you have been bought through the death and resurrection of Jesus and are loved deeply. But more importantly, even though your friend hasn’t come to know the Lord, yow now know that he/she has heard exactly what Jesus has done in your life and knows how much Jesus loves them and wants to be in a relationship with them. I’ve had friends text me years after sharing my faith with them that they are now followers of Jesus! It wasn’t necessarily because I shared my faith, but the fact that they would text me after years of not talking is encouraging knowing that at some point during our friendship, they had heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

My second piece of advice is for those moments when you feel like you are getting into an argument about creation vs. evolution, the validity of the Bible, or some other topic that can turn into a never ending dialogue: Always turn the conversation back to Jesus. There are so many people that believe God exists, but they have never made a decision about Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. If you can focus on these points and challenge your friend to do the research and make a decision based on the person of Jesus. Jesus is the most important and most controversial figure that has ever lived and I’ve never met a person that doesn’t have an opinion about Him or isn’t at least interested in hearing about Him!

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