Australia’s own Southern Hemisphere 330kg bench-press record-holder
There are two seemingly opposing worlds that Nathan Baxter lives in, being the father of two girls and being number 20 in the world in bench-press for men above 120 kilograms, holding the Commonwealth bench-press record of 330kg.
After joining a gym in 2001 to get healthy, while working as a Karratha school chaplain, the 161kg strongman has since become Oceania Bench Press Champion 2010 and 2012, Australian Power-lifting Champion 2008, 2009 and 2012, and a four-time Australian Bench Champion.
Unlike many elite sportsmen, it is not the right mates, family pedigree, or anything external that is a primary factor in Nathan’s exceptional ability, because he is entirely self-taught and his motivation is very unusual.
Instead, he says, his ability and motivation arise from his rejection of atheism and commitment to Jesus Christ during his time at university.
After committing to Jesus, Nathan says, “When I first went to the gym I was deeply convicted to do everything for the glory of God because He is always watching. Lifting weights well became my ‘spiritual act of worship’. As Romans 12, verse 1, says; ‘I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.’”
When he became the strongest in his Karratha gym, Nathan says he entered the 2007 WA Power-lifting Championship to see “what I would do under pressure on a platform”. He won there, and the following two years in WA and Victoria.
Before his change of heart, Nathan recalls he was successful academically, had overcome issues with depression and suicidal thoughts in high school, and yet he was missing something.
“In general, my life was pretty unexceptional,” he says. “I always had a prevailing feeling that I never quite fitted in anywhere. I was well liked and had friends but I could easily go between groups and not be particularly missed if I wasn’t there.”
Invited to a Christianity Explained course while he was at university, Nathan attended even though he had no interest in God because the host was pretty and she was cooking dinner.
Over the next six weeks, Nathan did not change his mind, but he began noticing that this girl’s life matched what she said.
“I respected this young lady because she lived her faith and was prepared to give an account of it,” Nathan recalls. “When she didn’t know an answer she didn’t bluff. And when I asked her about her personal relationship with God she did not mince her words or sugar-coat anything.”
However, Nathan insisted that he was an atheist and there wasn't anything to quantitatively prove that God existed.
Weeks later, at the funeral of an old friend, his convictions changed.
“Standing up the back of the chapel I had an overwhelming sense that God was real,” Nathan recalls.
“No flashing lights or verses or anything in particular, just a strong sense that God was real.”
At home, Nathan began to pray to God. He explains, “I knew from the CE course that if God was real that I did not want to be against Him. So I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart, that I wanted to be for Him and that I was sorry for trying to fight Him for so long.”
Even as he came to know “God’s eternal presence and His great love and compassion for me”, Nathan says that his previously easy life suddenly became difficult.
His friends and family did not approve of his decision to become a Christian and, he says, “I suffered a major breakdown and left university, my car blew up and I eventually left town to get away from it all. All this did was to strengthen my resolve to follow Christ. I knew that it was an attack from the enemy (Satan) and that I must resist.”
Now, says Nathan, everything he does has purpose.
“Dropping out of university meant that I was in a position to meet my wife, have two beautiful daughters, become a chaplain, take up power-lifting and then be in a position to share my story with many,” Nathan points out.
“What was intended to harm me, God used for good to glorify Him. All I want to do is to glorify God and proclaim the name of Jesus — this is my purpose in life. God has made my life remarkable and amazing. I have achieved so much as a result of devoting all that I do to Christ.”
Nathan has been able to influence many through his weighty work.
At the 2010 World Championships in Texas, Nathan met a South African competitor named Heinrich, who had failed his first two lifts.
Invited by Heinrich’s training partner to speak with him, Nathan asked, “Can I pray for you”
“I will take anything I can get!” he replied.
Nathan remembers: “I prayed that he would feel God’s strength and that he would have a peace that surpasses all understanding. Then he smoked his third lift, like it was not him at all. Afterwards, he said to me, ‘I think there’s something in this praying business,’ and a week later he emailed to say, “I’ve given my life to Jesus. Thank you very much.”
As a Christian, Nathan firmly believes that “whatever our story is, however mundane or exciting, God has given it to every one of us to share our life’s mission, to share His glory with others.”
In March, Nathan attended the 2013 Arnold USA Powerlifting Championships held in Ohio, sponsored by Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he competed in the raw lift and bench-press.