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The Unexpected Trade

  • Luis Palau Renowned Evangelist
  • Published Oct 23, 2001
The Unexpected Trade
In Acts 7, a disciple named Stephen was brutally martyred while others watched. Was it something about Stephen’s death, however, that helped make a Jewish zealot named Saul into the beloved apostle known as Paul?

I wish following God and obeying His will sometimes had different earthly consequences. For Stephen, it meant death. But for Saul, Stephen’s death may have played a critical role in leading him closer to a new life in Christ. What man meant for harm, God turned for good. The story below shows how God allows a faithful follower to impact thousands in the midst of trial and adversity.

National Football League running back Sherman Smith, the “Sherman Tank,” stood six feet four inches tall and packed two hundred and twenty-five pounds of the most solid muscle you’d ever want to tackle. His reputation for bowling over defensive linemen raised his celebrity to near-cult status in the Pacific Northwest, where he played for the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman couldn’t cross a Seattle street without being stopped, patted on the back, or asked for an autograph. He was treated like royalty among the gentry.

Without warning, the Seahawks traded their most popular player to the San Diego Chargers. Everything changed for this running back whose Christian faith was as rock-solid as his rib cage. Sherman arrived in a city where nobody knew him and nobody cared. He wasn’t with the Chargers for more than a few weeks when he blew out his knee. While in rehabilitation, he wondered, Lord, why did you ship me to San Diego?

While his knee mended, Sherman participated in team meetings and joined the club on road trips. He also spoke boldly about his faith—fellow Chargers knew exactly where he stood.

Once while flying back to San Diego after a game, Sherman stood in the aisle with a Bible the size of the Ten Commandment tablets in one hand while leading a Bible study for several players. A defensive back named Miles McPherson asked Sherman to move so he could use the restroom.

Sherman didn’t know that Miles had a line of cocaine in his pocket and was planning to get high, but he knew his teammate did not have a personal relationship with God. A good-looking party guy, Miles was a single who knew how to mingle.

“Can I get by?” Miles asked.

“What’s up, little brother?” Sherman responded.

“Who are you calling little?”


“Okay, okay,” Miles laughed. They both knew who the big guy was on the plane.

Before he let Miles pass, Sherman asked him point-blank, “If you were to die today, what would happen to you?”

“I would go to heaven.”

“How do you know?”

“Look, man, I went to Catholic school for eight years. I wore a green suit every day. I’m going to heaven for that.”

“Nah, you ain’t going to heaven for that.”

“Look, man, we used to have nuns in our school who were five-foot-two, two hundred and sixty pounds, and they used to smack us in the head. I’m going to heaven for that.”

“Nah, you ain’t going to heaven for that.”

“Why not?” Miles asked.

“Let me tell you a story, little brother.”

Sherman proceeded to tell Miles about Nicodemus from the third chapter of the Gospel of John. Nicodemus was well-educated in Jewish culture and the Old Testament. He had watched Jesus Christ heal lepers, raise a little girl from the dead, and restore the sight of a blind man.

Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Miles thought about Sherman’s message for a long time. On April 12, 1984, after doing cocaine all night, Miles got on his knees and surrendered his life to Christ. He prayed, “Jesus, I ask you to be my Savior today, and I will surrender my whole life to you. I don’t want to live for myself anymore. I will do whatever you want me to do. I will be whatever you want me to be.”

When Christ became his Savior, Miles stopped doing cocaine, stopped smoking marijuana, stopped cursing, and stopped picking up girls. He also told Sherman what happened. Sherman and two other players began meeting with Miles to study the Bible, helping him learn from the Word of God. When Miles said he wanted to share his faith with others, they said, “Go for it.”

Today, Miles McPherson is an outstanding youth communicator who preached to tens of thousands each year at Miles Ahead crusades.
Miles and Sherman both know now why the “Sherman Tank” was traded from Seattle to San Diego. God had a plan.

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the people turn from their wicked deeds. Let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Copyright © 2001 by Luis Palau. All rights reserved. Excerpted from
It’s A God Thing (Doubleday, 2001). Published with permission. To read more “God thing” stories, visit the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association Web site at www.palau.org/Godthing .