Steve Smith, Sr. is one of my favorite athletes of all time. Although it was sad to see him play his final game on Sunday, he’s had an incredible 16-year career with the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens.

With many great catches and a passion for the game, his playing style has been thrilling to watch over the years. As a Panther’s fan, his most memorable play was the touchdown he caught to win a double overtime playoff game against the St. Louis Rams on their way to the 2003 Super Bowl.

Having a big personality, Smith made plenty of mistakes throughout his career, but after 16 seasons, he’s earned tremendous respect from fans, players, and coaches.

The media will most likely welcome him as a member sometime soon, but they, too, admire him. Tad Haislop from The Sporting Newsdescribed Smith this way: “The truth is Smith’s greatness is based on whatever “it” is. The trash talk; the celebrations; the tenacity — Smith, at 5-9, 185 pounds, arguably is the most intimidating player in NFL history, pound-for-pound.”

I think the perfect word Haislop used is the word “tenacity.” The dictionary definition is “the quality or fact of being very determined; determination or the quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence.”

Smith’s journey is impressive. Drafted in the 3rd round, he was a small punt returner as a rookie, and now has the potential of being a Hall of Fame wide receiver.

During his time with the Panthers, he experienced 1-15 and 2-14 seasons and played with quarterbacks, Chris Weinke, Jimmy Clausen, David Carr, and Jake Delhomme. Smith also overcame injuries during his career, including a broken leg and arm, and a torn achilles tendon.

Despite some poor quarterback play and devastating injuries, Smith kept showing up season after season. I would argue that for many years he was very underrated and NFL fans outside of the Carolinas didn’t realize just how good he truly was. However, playing with Baltimore for the last few seasons, he’s finally been recognized for being a top wide receiver.

As we think about the tenacity of Steve Smith, I hope we are encouraged to be tenacious in our own lives – combining both passion and persistence. We might find ourselves in situations with a “bad quarterback” or “injuries” or other limitations, but we can remain determined to keep going.

When it comes to our faith journey and following Jesus, there are going to be times when it seems too hard and we want to give up. Maybe we get tired of doing the right thing…or we want to be blessed in certain ways, but it’s not happening…or we’re not getting the credit we think we deserve.

During these times, we must rely on God’s faithfulness and power to help us continue being tenacious about serving Him. The Bible says in Galatians 6:9 (NLT), “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

As we begin 2017, let’s be challenged to live life with tenacity and to obey God with passion and persistence. Let’s trust Him and not give up. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray that I would continue to be tenacious about following Jesus and not give up when things get tough. I pray for strength to persevere, and not get tired of doing good. I thank you for all of Your blessings and thank you in advance for the ones to come. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.