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An Olympian Finds His Purpose


You’d think things would have gone swimmingly for the all-time Olympic gold medal holder, Michael Phelps. But they didn’t: Until he found his purpose.

By Eric Metaxas

In the months and even years leading up to this year’s Rio Olympics, much of the news about Michael Phelps was bad. In September of 2014, he was arrested for driving while under the influence in his hometown of Baltimore.

Eric MetaxasIt seemed that Phelps’ best days, both in and out of the pool, were behind him. But that’s not how it turned out.

Phelps carried the American flag during the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. During the Rio games he became he most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals, 23 of them gold.

None of this was likely to happen less than two years ago.

As Phelps told ESPN, following his announced retirement in 2012, he struggled to “figure out who he was outside the pool.” In his words, “I was a train wreck. I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good. I felt lost.”

Like a lot of people struggling with similar feelings, he self-medicated.

In the immediate aftermath of that DWI arrest, he cut himself off from family and other loved ones and “thought the world would just be better off without me . . . I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life."

That’s when a friend came to his rescue: former All Pro linebacker Ray Lewis. Seeing the hopelessness and despair in his young friend, Lewis, an outspoken Christian, told him, “This is when we fight . . . This is when real character shows up. Don’t shut down. If you shut down we all lose.”

Pupose Driven LifeLewis convinced Phelps to enter rehab and gave him a book to read while he was there: “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

The book changed Phelps’ life. Within a few days, Phelps called Lewis and told him “‘Man this book is crazy . . . The thing that’s going on . . . oh my gosh . . . my brain, I can’t thank you . . . enough, man. You saved my life.’”

As Phelps told ESPN, Rick Warren’s book “turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.”

Michael Phelps’ story is a reminder that no matter how big a mess your life may be, and no matter how dim the last embers of hope may glow, God is still there. It’s also a reminder of the role that God’s people are called to play as bringers of hope and agents of restoration.


Thanks to Eric Metaxas and the Colson Center for Biblical Worldview for inspiring this article. Use this link to read more about Michael Phelps and find some great resources.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point.



Break Point, Eric Metaxas, Michael Phelps, olympics, Rick Warren


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