FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Playbook for Heroes

with Derwin Gray | January 8, 2010
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Even Superman would struggle to meet the obligations and duties that face the average man! But at the core of their being, men are designed to be heroes, says former NFL player Derwin Gray, because they are created in the image of the Great Hero—God. Today Derwin directs men on a journey of restoration, calling them back to their God-appointed mission, challenging them to reclaim their place as warrior and worshiper.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Even Superman would struggle to meet the obligations and duties that face the average man! But at the core of their being, men are designed to be heroes, says former NFL player Derwin Gray, because they are created in the image of the Great Hero—God. Today Derwin directs men on a journey of restoration, calling them back to their God-appointed mission, challenging them to reclaim their place as warrior and worshiper.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Even Superman would struggle to meet the obligations and duties that face the average man!

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The Playbook for Heroes

With Derwin Gray
January 08, 2010
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Bob:  Derwin Gray played major college football and then went into the NFL. He played there for six seasons.  He was a two season Pro Bowl candidate.  He has a word for those guys who will be playing in division playoff games in the NFL this weekend.

Derwin:  Football is a false god, and a false god is never satisfied.  Whenever you have to work to please a false god, you're always weary and tired.  That's why Jesus says, "All those who are heavy laden and weary, come unto me and I will give you rest."  He gave me rest from trying to perform for acceptance and love.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll hear about how God has rearranged Derwin Gray's priorities over the years on today's edition of our program.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. We're going to talk to our guest Derwin Gray here in just a minute, but before that, we are beginning our programs here in 2010 by encouraging our listeners to spend some time each day in God's word.

Dennis:  Just read it to one another, and just talk about it a little bit.  It doesn't have to be a whole chapter. Just take a single verse and read it.

Bob:  And, we thought that a good way to get you pointed in that direction would be to share a verse with you here at the beginning of FamilyLife Today each day this month.  The verse we're using is the verse that's found at the beginning of each of the daily devotionals in the book Moments With You, written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.  So, what's the verse for January 8th.

Dennis:  Psalm 73: 16-17.  Today is a bonus day.  You get two verses today.  "When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight.  Until, I came into the sanctuary of God." Now, what is that saying?  Well it says in life you're going to run into a lot of circumstances that aren't going to make a lot of sense.  But when you get into the presence of God—and His word, by the way—all of a sudden, things begin to fall in place, because God brings perspective.


Bob:  That doesn't mean that you'll get every question you have answered, but there is something about being in God's presence that brings peace, even when we don't have all the answers.


Dennis:  That is exactly right.  What I'd encourage you to do is sometime today before you retire, maybe at bedtime, just take this verse and talk about what you're facing as a couple.  Some circumstance, some problem, some challenge... Maybe it's the loss of a job, or a challenge with a child, and pray together as a couple.

Bob:  And the reference again, Psalm 73...


Dennis:  Verses 16 and 17.

Bob:  Again our hope is whether it's this verse or a verse of your own choosing, you as a family will spend some time today together in God's word.  We hope that will be a pattern that gets established here during the month of January, and continues in your family throughout the year.

Now, I also want to remind our listeners that next week is your last opportunity to sign up for one our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences, and take advantage of the FamilyLife Today buy-one-get-one-free offer that we've got going on.  When you sign up and register for yourself, your spouse comes free.  So you buy one registration, you get another one free.

And that offer is good for FamilyLife Today listeners and it's good today and through next week, and then it expires.  So if you want to take advantage of it, go online at, you can get all the information you need about when the conference is coming to a city near where you live.  You can make plans to attend and then you can register online.  But make sure you do this, when you register, as you fill out the registration form, there's a key code box on the registration form.  Type my name, type "Bob" in there.  They'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you'll qualify for the buy one get one free offer.

Or, simply call 1-800-FLTODAY.  We can answer any questions you have about the conference, let you know when it's coming to a city near where you live, and then you just mention that you're a FamilyLife Today listener and again, you'll qualify for the special buy-one-get-one-free offer.  It's good this week and next week only, for FamilyLife Today listeners.

And I'll just remind you that Dennis and his wife Barbara are going to be speaking at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®  in Washington DC, at the Washington National, Valentine's weekend.  I'm going to be at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania that same weekend.  So if you live in those areas and want to attend, we'd love to see you at one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences.

Now, you played sports in college right?  You were a basketball player.


Dennis:  Of sorts.  Well we're seated across the table here from a former NFL.

Bob:  You were the point guard at Crowder Community...


Dennis:  No, no, no, I was...

Bob:  Power forward?

Dennis:  Power bench.

(All laugh)


Dennis:  I didn't quit.  That is my claim to fame.  I got the "Rough Rider" award at Crowder College because, I got the fifteenth uniform as a freshman, and I hung in there and I started my very last game before I left college.


Bob:  Did you ever think to yourself when you were listening to the coach, did you ever think, I could do what he's doing, I could be the coach.

Dennis:  No.

Bob:  You never thought that?

Dennis:  I never did.  I never thought of myself as a coach. Let me tell you why I can say that.  You and I had the privilege of interviewing Coach John Wooden.  I'm just telling you after meeting the master of coaching, I never approached anything like that of being a teacher and having the patience that guy had. Not to mention his success.  He personifies what it means to be a coach.  And we're talking to someone today who personifies what it means to be a hero.   So, we want to pick his brain.  We're going to turn Derwin Gray into a coach for heroes.


Derwin:  I like that.

Dennis:  OK. Former NFL player, currently a pastor in Charlotte, two children, one wife.

Bob:  And you wrote a book called Hero: Unleashing God's Power in a Man's Heart.  You really have a burden to see guys embrace what it is God's calling them to be as men, right?

Derwin:  I do, I do.  I have a passion to see men be all that they were created to be.  Because, as men we have a divine birthright to be servant leaders, to shape, to influence not only our families, but this culture that we live in.  In essence, as a coach there has to be a master passion that compels us and moves us to action.  All of us live by some stories. Like for me, in college, before a scrimmage or football game, I would watch Rocky III.   I love to watch Rocky III, Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa.  He'd get beat up, but some kind of way he'd win.


Bob:  Now wait, is that Mr. T?  Is that Rocky III, Mr. T?


Derwin:  Yes, if you beat up Mr. T, you've done something.  Just his story would compel me.  Well there's a greater story that should compel us.  The greater story is that God himself, the great hero is on mission to turn men into little heroes, to change the world.  We can actually join God in his master passion of restoring humanity and restoring creation.  If you want to have an exciting life, join the great Hero in what He's doing.  But this master passion is God Himself, that our view of God is so low.

If we see God for who He is, we will be enamored with Him.  I think that when we get a glimpse of His greatness, His awesomeness, something begins to happen.  His greatness rubs off on us.   That's the thesis of this book.  That as we get near the Hero Himself, which is Jesus, His greatness, his power influences us to live a heroic life.  So we begin to do things that we never thought that we could ever do. 

I was a compulsive stutterer up until about, 13 years ago.  I never dreamed of being a pastor, a communicator, I didn't like to read books until I became a Christian.   So writing a book was not even a dream.  But when Jesus came, he said "Derwin I'm going to put you in positions that will cause you to depend on me.  When that happens, you're going to be somebody you never thought you could be." 

So now I'm a pastor, I do TV... I'm on the show with two of my heroes! I mean, come on!  Forget about it. I wrote a book are you kidding me?  I'm sure some of my teachers in high school are saying, "Derwin Gray did what?  He wrote a book?"

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  "Who did he get to do this for him?"


Dennis:  My eighth grade English teacher is flopping around in the grave that I ever wrote a book.  I get a feeling, how you're describing it, means that some of your teachers are doing the same thing.  I want to take you back to Ephesians five where it commands us:  "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. A fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  A hero is someone who does his duty and in the process he sacrifices for another.  Is that your definition of a hero?  How would you describe it?


Derwin:  Well, I would describe it in similar language to that. Paul, in essence, is taking the Shamah, which is "Listen Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength."  After 10 years of ministry, my big idea, everything for me leads to this: Upward, inward, outward.

Upward is, love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  To love yourself leads to humility and compassion for your neighbor.  So that's what a heroic life is.  Is that God—I love you because you first loved me, which all of a sudden allows me to love myself, which means, I'm no longer defined by my past. I'm no longer so insecure that I can't have a conflict resolution with my wife now.  Because I'm secure, I can talk about difficult things.  Because I'm secure, I can forgive those who have hurt me. 

But then the third part, upward, inward, and then outward is I live a compassionate, sacrificial life to make somebody else's life better. It could be your wife, your children, your co-workers.  If you're in high school, it's your classmates.   So that's what a heroic life is to me.  Jesus is, in essence saying, "Do you want to live a heroic life, do you want to define your purpose?  Here it is.  Love God—upward. Love your neighbor as you love yourself—inward, outward. That's what a heroic life is. And that's what's going to change the world. 

Are people who walk in God's love, living a sacrificial life?  One of the things that I do throughout the book, is I ask what-if questions.  What if we actually loved one another is such a way that it compelled us to treat each other with compassion?  What if we lived in that kind of way?  Do you know what would happen?  The world would be changed one heart at a time, or as you guys say, one home at a time.

Dennis:  Yes.  I believe that the way we're going to change our nation, is at the grassroots level.  It's all about individual people becoming passionate about Christ in their own lives.  As you said, "Upward, inward, and then outward," reaching out to others, and investing their lives in other people. It wasn't always so for you.  In fact, one of the things you kind of idolized was a very fine high quality suit.

Bob:  You liked looking good, didn't you?

Derwin:  Yes I did. When I was a little boy I saw a movie called "Trading Places" with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.  Eddie Murphy was Billy Ray Valentine. He was a street bum, and these Chicago future traders made a bet, and they took Billy Ray Valentine off the streets.  They gave him some nice suits.  And so, as a young impressionable boy, I was thinking, "I want some nice suits." So when I got in the NFL, man I...

Dennis:  You bought a suit.


Derwin:  I bought a bunch of suits.  My favorite suit though, my favorite suit was an all-white suit.  I unveiled it in the first game of the season 1997.  We go to play the Miami Dolphins.  Now this suit was so nice, that when I got on the plane, my teammates were like, "Wow!"   So, I said, "Hey, have your people call my people," you know.

You have to understand that for me and my worldview, how I dressed defined me.  Because, when I looked in the mirror I didn't see a poor kid who had hand-me-downs I saw a "man who had made it" so to speak.  So when I put on this suit.


Dennis:  It was an identity for you.

Derwin:  Oh, totally!   But here's the deal, when we become followers of Christ, Galatians 3:27 says, "All those who believe in Christ are baptized into Christ."  We're clothed with Christ. In other words, when God the Father looks at us, he doesn't see our past sins; he doesn't see our past failures.  He sees us clothed with Christ.  So, how we view ourselves based on what Christ has done for us and his life, death and resurrection, it changes how we live.

Bob:  So, when you're talking to younger men today about being heroic, you've got to start with understanding your identity.  If your identity is wrapped up in the values of the culture, you can never get to "hero" can you.


Derwin:  You can't.   We suffer in an identity crisis.  If you don't know who you are, you can never be all that God has created you to be.  The NFL stands for "National Football League" right?   Well NFL players, we say this.  It stands for "Not for long."  Now, 80% of NFL players within three years of retirement from the NFL go through bankruptcy, divorce or substance abuse.  One of the reasons I think that happens, is that they're identity is based on being a football player. 

When I was an NFL player, I lived in a lot of fear.  Because, if I lost my job, who would I be?  I would be nobody because my identity was wrapped up in what I did.

When I became a follower of Christ, a new NFL happened. I had a "New found life."  This new-found life was not based on my performance, but based on the performance of Christ.   So, therefore my identity determines my function.  The gospel is more than us going to heaven when we die, it’s God giving us a secure identity to live from so that we can flourish and be the men we've been created to be.

Dennis:  You describe yourself in your book as a friend of God.

Derwin:  Yes.


Dennis:  That's where your identity was.  It was interesting, before we came in here, we were together and we shared some time of prayer.  I want you to share with our listeners one of the ways you address God when you pray.

Derwin:  I address God as “Papa.”  I've been doing that for about seven years now.  I get that from Jesus when he calls God "Abba" which is the Aramaic word for "Papa", or "Daddy."  So for me when I address God, it's "Papa," He's my Papa.  That's the way I address Him because, to have a relationship with my Papa that I can climb on his lap and say "Papa, today was a rough day," and my papa's there.


Bob:  This is so fundamental to our understanding of how we're related to God, what our identity is in Christ, so foundational to how we're going to live.  You were talking to a young man in your church; I think you called him "Desmond" in the book.  He was struggling with this intimate relationship that you were talking about with God.

Derwin:  Yes, Desmond had a rough go.  His dad verbally abused him, gave him alcohol, he started drinking and going to school at 16 was sexually molested.  He had confusion about whether he liked men or does he like women.  It wasn't until the gospel of Jesus Christ liberated him to be the man that he was created to be.  One of the cool things is, when he became a follower of Christ, when he got married, he invited his friends who were in the homosexual and bi-sexual lifestyle to his wedding, to be as Ephesians 2:7 says, "A trophy of grace."

Dennis:  You've received grace and you've also given grace.  You shared earlier about your relationship with your dad.  How he, for all practical purposes, walked out of your life when you were five.  Really never saw any of your games when you played in high school, college, or the NFL.   And yet, when I asked you about your relationship with him, you said you'd come to a point of forgiving your dad for not being there.

Derwin:  Right.  Yes, this was probably back in 2001, and I was writing letters to my family and friends saying how great Jesus was and his forgiveness.  I heard a voice, I don't know if it was God's voice or my voice.  But the voice said, "Find your father."  I said, "No."  Voice continued, I said, "No."  It continued and finally I called home to Texas to find out where he was, and I found out that he was incarcerated, found out where exactly he was, and I wrote the most difficult letter I've ever written.

It said, "Dad I want you to know that I love you, and I forgive you, and I want you to be a part of my life, my wife's life, and your grandkids."  So I sent the letter off and I didn't hear anything back for a while. And then I sent the letter again. S ome time went by.  I'm walking to the mailbox and I get the mail, and sorting through the mail.  And all of a sudden, I see this letter from him.  It was like I was teleported back in time.  I felt like a little boy.  So I'm just weeping and crying.  I go to my office and I tear open this letter and I'm just shaking.  I'm shaking because I don't know what it's going to say.

He wrote the words that I longed to hear my whole life from my dad.  He said, "Son, thank you for forgiving me. I want you to know that I love you and I want to be a part of your family's life."  I just wept and I wept and I wept, and wept.  But the only way I was able to do that, was God saying "Derwin I gave you grace and love to give grace and love even when you don't want to."  That's what changed my relationship with my dad.  So, we've gotten closer and I've been able to help him at times. Is our relationship perfect?  No.  But what it is, it's reconciled.  He's my friend and I'm his friend.

Dennis:  You know, Derwin what you're modeling here is Bill Bright's verse. Bill Bright was President of Campus Crusade for Christ, a good friend, and Bob and I had the privilege of interviewing him here on FamilyLife Today.   I heard him quote this verse, I'll bet a hundred times.  Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

What you just modeled for a lot of people listening, and for us as well, is the willingness to return forgiveness to someone who had profoundly hurt you, and hadn't been there.  There are times in our lives when we know we're really acting like real men.  You were never more of a man than when you forgave your daddy for not being there.

Derwin:  I appreciate that.  That Galatians 2:20 is one of my life's verses.  That's what being a hero is. The thesis of my whole book could be Galatians 2:20 because at the end of the day, in order for us to live a heroic life, the Hero must come and indwell us and live through us.

Dennis:  Yes. And you demonstrate that.  Thanks for being on our program.

Derwin:  Thank you.

Dennis:  For sharing your story.  You're a good man.

Bob:  Let me say thanks as well on behalf of all the guys who are going to get a copy of your book and read it and benefit from it.  The book is called Hero:  Unleashing God's Power in a Man's Heart and we've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online to and there's information available there about how you can get a copy of the book Hero by Derwin Gray.  Again the website is, or call us, toll-free, 1-800-FLTODAY, and we can give you more information about how you can get a copy of Derwin's book sent to you.

Let me also suggest that one of the most heroic things you can do as a husband is to take the initiative with your wife in setting aside some time for the two of you to reflect on your relationship. To take your temperature, say "How are we doing? How can we do better?" And one place where you can do that is the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conference. We're about to kick off the spring season of conferences. We'll do that Valentine's weekend.

In fact Dennis and Barbara are going to be at the Gaylord National Hotel in Washington, D.C., that weekend.  And I'm going to be at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania that weekend. And there are conferences in other cities that same weekend. And then throughout the spring and into June in cities all across the country we'll have Weekend to Remember® Conferences taking place. 

Guys, why don't you, go online today at find out when the conference is coming to a city near where you live, call your wife and say, "Hey why don't we go to this?" And then, contact us and register.  If you register and mention that you're a FamilyLife Today listener, when you register for one person, the second registration for your spouse is absolutely free.  That's good this week and next week only. So we need to hear from you, and we need to know you're a FamilyLife Today listener.

If you're registering online, type my name, type "Bob" in the key code box on the online registration form. That will let us know that you listen to FamilyLife Today.  Or if you register by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, just mention, "I listen to FamilyLife Today", or "Bob told me to call."  And, again, you'll qualify for the buy-one-get-one-free registration offer we're making available to FamilyLife Today listeners this week and next week.  So we do hope to hear from you, and hope you enjoy your weekend together at one our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences.

And one final note, related to that.  For those of you who are interested in helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today by making regular donations as a Legacy Partner, when you sign up to become a Legacy Partner, and when you make your monthly donation via recurring credit card draft or bank draft, we will send you a certificate for both of you to attend a Weekend to Remember as our guests. 

So, you can attend one of these upcoming conferences, again as our guests when you sign up as a new Legacy Partner and make your donations via credit card or bank draft.  You can sign up online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to become a Legacy Partner.  And, again I want to say thanks in advance for your support of this ministry we appreciate your financial partnership in helping keep this program on the air in this city, and in other cities all across the country.

And, we hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.  I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we're going to talk to a couple whose marriage ended, and then was resurrected.  Clint and Penny Bragg share their story with us on Monday. Hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today, Hope for tomorrow.

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