’Alarm bells’ sounded warning

Philip Murphy
Philip Murphy says God’s pursuit of him has not relented

ESPN sports journalist Philip Murphy grew up attending church and "trying to be good" but realised he had been spiritually asleep when three "alarm bells" went off in his life and woke him up to the truth about God.

Philip admitted on website Unashamed Athletes.com: "I didn't know why I was doing the church thing. In fact, I never even asked myself that question. I just went because that's what I did."

But as he got older the gap between what he proclaimed on a Sunday, and how he lived the rest of the week grew wider and wider.

During this time, between the ages of 17 and 19, Phil felt three distinct moments of conscience and clarity that he describes as "God setting off my spiritual alarm clock".

Twice he ignored these promptings to change the trajectory of his life.

The first time was in the early morning hours after his prom night when he snapped to awareness from substance abuse, standing outside his car, severely underdressed, not remembering how he had got there. Philip knew then that his life was on a dangerous path.

I was in emotional and physical miseryThe next was a year later when his long-distance girlfriend came to visit him shortly after having a baby (not his) and asked him to hold the child while she showered. Looking into the baby's eyes, Philip suddenly realised his philandering and selfishness were affecting more than just himself and the girl he was dating.

The following year, Philip thought he had sorted his life out. He was in a committed relationship, he had his first full-time sports writing job, and he was making gains in the gym. He still didn't know what a relationship with God looked like, but he thought he did.

"I attended church weekly and thought spiritually distant morality was somehow sufficient," he says.

Then his stable life began to collapse.

His relationship ended badly, his employer let him go, and a bout of unrelenting flu kept him from working out for months.

Philip was in emotional and physical misery – "at least as much as a 19-year-old, upper-middle-class college student would understand 'misery'," he adds wryly. He realised he needed something else in his life.

"I felt compelled to meet with a leader in my church. He insisted on turning that time into a formal confession of sin rather than the general counsel I was seeking," Philip remembers.

That hour proved future-altering because during it Philip received his first Bible. He began by reading the book of Philippians.

"After finishing Philippians, my appetite for God's Word was voracious. I felt a hunger to read more, pray regularly and obey convictions of my new heart."

Over the course of the next few months, Philip made sense of what was happening to him. His desires were shifting.

Then, it was inexplicable, but now he knows that it was the Holy Spirit working to bring him back into a right relationship to God through Jesus Christ.

"Without the power of God who controls all things, church-going is a lame hobby. But standing under God's influence and leaning into Him as the all-knowing God, a relationship developed, providing a lens through which I saw the world and my purpose in it categorically differently," Philip proclaims.

That was more than eight years ago.

"Since then, God's pursuit of me has not relented – despite my pursuit of Him being horribly inconsistent. He's been faithful when I haven't been.

"My final testimony won't be written until I take my last breath. But I know my eternity is secure, a truth that has been an anchor through storms far more serious than [those of my youth].

"In fact, I'm walking in the darkest season of my life right now. And I can say without hesitation, 'Christ is sufficient'," he declares.

For Philip, having hope beyond this life is far more freeing that anything this world can provide.

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