Gospel Light Minute – Ernie Johnson (#284)
He is one of America’s most respected and loved sports personalities. He is a three-time Emmy Award winning sports broadcaster and journalist for Turner Sports and CBS Sports, who is often most recognized for hosting TNT’s “Inside the NBA” with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. He is also the host for NBA TV’s popular “Fan Night” and a host for Turner and CBS’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship coverage. He is the lead play-by-play announcer for Turner’s coverage of Major League Baseball and the PGA Championship, and has covered the National Football League, The British Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics. In addition to his professional accolades and lifetime achievement awards, he has earned honors recognizing his incredible actions off-camera, including the first-ever John Wooden Keys to Life Award and a Musial Award, both of which salute characteristics such as integrity, faith, and good sportsmanship.
Perhaps more impressive than his professional fame and recognition is his innate ability to connect with people on a human level. His willingness to discuss topics such as the adoption of four of his and his wife Cheryl’s children, including their special needs son Michael; the death of his father and best friend, an iconic sportscaster and pitcher; and his own battle with cancer has endeared him and given hope to millions. He recently released his autobiography titled Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary, which offers an unprecedented look at his extraordinary sports career as well as his life off camera.
In addition to being one of America’s top sports broadcasters, he has become one of the industry’s top faith voices as well. In a recent profile for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA Magazine), he says that at the age of 41, he realized life was about more than becoming the best broadcaster he could be. As the lead anchor and face of TNT Sports and host of “Inside the NBA,” he was used to appearing in front of huge crowds, both in person and on television. But speaking about his faith in Jesus for the first time at an FCA event made him nervous.
In FCA’s story titled “Totally Honest,” he talks about his faith journey, the opportunities God gives him to shine for Him, and how he strives to be the servant rather than the served. He was at the top of the broadcasting game, working alongside Hall of Famers and NBA champions Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal for the Emmy-winning “Inside the NBA.” Once a producer suggested the show go unscripted, it skyrocketed in popularity. Now, 20 years after accepting Christ into his life, he recalled what first brought him to an introduction to Jesus. His two oldest children asked him and his wife, Cheryl, why they didn’t attend church as a family. After some discussion, they decided to attend Crossroads, a nondenominational church they drove by frequently in Atlanta. He was moved at the first service he attended, when the pastor asked the congregation two questions: Who’s the provider in your family, and are you pursuing happiness or wholeness?
Those questions challenged him since he already knew he needed to be a better husband and father. He returned to Crossroads the next three weeks, and then asked the pastor, Kevin Myers, out to lunch. On Dec. 10, 1997, at an O’Charley’s restaurant, he prayed to God and became a Christian. His wife, Cheryl, made the same decision a few months later. Their pastor explained to them that even before they became believers, God was working in their lives. For example, beginning in 1990, they began adopting children (including a son with special needs) out of love, empathy and compassion.
As his faith grew, he considered leaving TNT. Should he continue his career after turning his life over to God? Should he try to find a faith-based job? He asked Cheryl what he should do. She responded on his spiritual birthday by giving him a large compass as a gift. Her handwritten note with it reminded him to remember the day he found his ultimate direction in life—and to let God direct him. He ended up staying with TNT, trusting the platform God gave him would provide opportunities for him to share his faith. And God did just that.
Several moments for these opportunities stand out. First, in August 2003, after noticing a bump near his ear, he was diagnosed with stage two Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. During that time, “Trust God … Period” became his mantra. He was candid about his cancer after the NBA’s All-Star weekend, and six grueling chemotherapy treatments later, his cancer was in remission, where it has remained since. He returned to “Inside the NBA” in 2006, never missing a show. A year later, he won the Emmy for outstanding studio host. “God sometimes whispers and sometimes shouts that His way is better than my way,” he said during his acceptance speech. Years later, he experienced hardship again when his beloved father died in 2011. About a month later, his adopted son, Michael, who has muscular dystrophy, was put on a ventilator to remain alive. Since then, the famous broadcaster spent most of his mornings caring for Michael at their home until he passed away at the age of 33 in October 2021.
Then, soon after the 2016 presidential election, “Inside the NBA” decided to discuss on air the results that left the country divided. In just over two minutes, this particular broadcaster’s commentary resonated with many and was shared millions of times on social media. “I never know from one election to the next who’s going to be in the Oval Office, but I always know who’s on the throne,” he said into the camera. “I’m on this earth because God created me, and that’s Who I answer to. I am a Christian. I follow a guy named Jesus; you might have heard of Him. And the greatest commandment He gave me was to love others. And Scripture also tells us to pray for our leaders, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pray for Donald Trump.”
The popular sports broadcaster sums up these opportunities to shine for Jesus—and the many more chances that will undoubtedly follow—with one concept. “The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served,” he told FCA. “Being a servant is where I find myself.”
His name is Ernie Johnson, Jr.
This is the “Chief of Sinners,” Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, reminding you of what the Bible says, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” like you and me. Just as Ernie Johnson, Jr. trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation, may I encourage you to do the same. Here is how:
1. Accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23 reads: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In fact, I am the chief of sinners, so don’t think that you’re alone.
2. Accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
3. Accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Bible says in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
4. Accept the fact that you cannot do anything to save yourself! The Bible states in Ephesians 2: 8, 9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
5. Accept the fact that God loves you more than you love yourself, and that He wants to save you from hell. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
6. With these facts in mind, please repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and pray and ask Him to come into your heart and save you this very moment. The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9, 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Dear friend, if you are willing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, please pray with me this simple prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you believed in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, allow me to say, congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour! For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
Remember, friend, Believe by faith. Share the faith. and Keep the faith!