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NFL Hall of Famer explains Biblical significance of his jersey number

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Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin said recently that the number he chose for his football jersey when he was playing for the New York Jets has a Biblical significance, according to an article today in the Christian Post. Martin said he was told by the team he could choose from among the numbers 26-28.

Not really sold on any particular number, the former star conferred with one of his advisers concerning his decision. He said his adviser recommended the number "28" because of the significance of a particular Bible verse.

"I was told Deuteronomy 28 has a special significance regarding the connection between obedience and receiving blessings from God," the Pittsburgh native said to NBC Sports.

He said the decision to take that number also led to the only pre-game ritual he ever had before football games. He read Deuteronomy 28 before each game to remind him of the promises found there.

Martin, who was a star NFL running back from 1998-2005, said he never wanted to play football. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the game, he had a stellar career as one of the top running backs in the league. After an outstanding career at the University of Pittsburgh, he was drafted by the New England Patriots. But he finished his career with the Jets who retired his jersey in 2012 in honor of his considerable services to the team.

At one point in his career he told his dad he might quit playing football. He didn't enjoy it.

His dad advised him that he should re-think that decision. Maybe God gave him the ability to play football so well so he could use his fame as a platform to spread the Gospel to others.

Martin of course heeded his advice and the rest is history.

The passage which inspired Martin's jersey number decision is found beginning at Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verse one which reads as follows: "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. Alll these blessings will come upon you and accompany if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and the country."

The entire chapter is worth a read as it sets out specific blessings one will receive for obedience. However, beginning with verse 15 it becomes more sobering. A list of curses is listed for those who disobey.

Spreading the gospel can be a difficult thing in today's increasingly secular society. Sometimes believers can wonder if it is worth the effort. Martin's decision to play football even though he didn't enjoy it resulted in his fame and subsequent ability to reach many more than he probably otherwise would have.

Martin's choice of the number 28 was a further creative way to spread the message. He received coverage from NBC and the Christian Post as a result. It's impossible to tell how many people were reached by his actions.

All the disciples experienced unpleasant conditions in the first century. Except for the disciple John, all were executed by people angered by their efforts to spread the gospel, according to Fox's Book of Martyrs.

And depending on which source you believe nonbelievers attempted to boil John to death in a cauldron of water and poison him. John survived these attempts on his life to wrtie the book of Revelation in his later years while exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

It may all boil down to the fact believers will have to accept the inevitability of encountering some unpleasantness if they want to follow the Great Commission. And it may be necessary to come up with a creative idea as Curtis Martin did in selecting a jersey number based on a Bible verse.

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