George Lilja: Where is the Former Browns Offensive Lineman today?
by Londa Stefanovsky
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
As he has sought Christ's kingdom first, the Lord has promoted and blessed him in ways unimagined. For years, the sport of football has been an integral part of this man's life…but the remarkable impact that Jesus Christ has had and continues to have upon the life of George Lilja, former Offensive Lineman of the Cleveland Browns, is far greater than any aspect of this American sport.
"One cannot fully understand who they are until they are fully aware of who they are in God," he commented.
Throughout his life, this concept became more evident to George as he grew in his walk with the Lord. George was very fortunate because his parents modeled Christ to his family as he grew up in the Chicago area with his five brothers and two sisters. Being raised in a Christian home truly made a lasting difference.
During his earlier years, the impact of Christ was somewhat foreign to George, but as time passed, through the fervent prayers of his godly mother and the workings of the Holy Spirit, he had come to an important foundational realization.
"Religion is man made, and can be just a mere part of someone's life.
Christianity, on the other hand, permeates one's whole life, in every aspect possible. My walk with Christ is not a good luck charm-it's more than that…it's my life support system."
Christ has not only permeated his personal and professional life, but also the life of his marriage and family. George currently lives in Hudson with his wife Meg, and their four children, Danielle, David, Bethany, and George III. George has always attempted to foster a sense of unconditional love towards his wife and kids. Having a Christ centered marriage and family has been essentially important.
"Having Christ being the center doesn't automatically take away all of the struggles-It simply helps you to keep your focus. And, in time, you will be able to see the fruits that are produced as a result."
"I don't always have all of the right answers. There are always fleshly struggles within Christianity, marriage, and family. All of these are centered around serving others instead of just yourself" he stated.
When asked about his marriage to Meg, he reflected on how she has been a gift that God has given to his life. He also expressed how important it is for a husband and wife to be equally yoked in Christ.
"Christian wives are very special. I am truly able to see now how she completes me!" he replied.
In regards to his family, George has realized how his kids are also gifts from God as well. There are times when God uses them to teach George valuable lessons for his own life. George finds joy when he sees his children growing in their walk with the Lord. When their faith is becoming more personal to each of them, even though at times, it may be a struggle, George has found great joy within those struggles.
"As a father, I am able to be their own personal cheerleader to cheer them on in things that I wouldn't ever be able to do. My oldest daughter sings and participates in plays-These are things that I personally don't have talent in-However, it's great for me to be able to cheer her on in those things!" he exclaimed.
Throughout his life, George has struggled with worrying. It has been one of the biggest struggles that he has had to face. In his heart, he has realized how worrying is a sin of distrusting God, and in thinking that his circumstances were bigger than God.
"Thankfully, I am learning to find peace in a Sovereign God irregardless of the circumstances that life throws my way" he commented.
George has looked to many men described in the Bible as to how to handle difficulties. From this, George has been encouraged knowing that he is not the only one who has struggled with different things in life.
"It's nice to see that they struggled with the same things that I do!" he stated, "This shows me that they were normal men too!"
With all that God has given him, especially through the venue of athletics, George has been empowered by God to tell his story of how Christ has changed his life. Understanding his imperfection, George has made the Bible and prayer to be his guides when speaking to people of ages ranging from high school to adult. George has thoroughly enjoyed using his gift to edify the church and speak to the lost. For him, it has been very rewarding and fulfilling. The journey that has since been traveled by George has been truly radical and exciting.
"It's a journey that the world just doesn't understand," he said.
Football has been an open door by which God has used to promote and enable George to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. As a professional athlete, George has been placed on a pedestal among people of this country. Being in this spotlight is a responsibility that cannot be easily relinquished.
"Kids look up to you-This is a precious thing that you cannot take lightly. Being in this limelight keeps a person accountable" he said.
Playing on the Cleveland Browns team has allowed George to be part of a core group of Christian friends. George could not emphasize enough the importance of having Christian friends, especially within the professional sports realm.
"With all of the money and exposure, there is a lot of temptation (even for Christians) to embrace those things of the world. Those men have helped to sharpen me as Proverbs 27:17 explains… 'As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.'"
With each speaking engagement, George has sought to connect with the people where they are in their own personal world. People must be touched both logically and emotionally. George's mission has always been to bring people to the cross of Christ. Every age group has its own challenges, but all have the same mission. For him, that mission is the most important.
"If people forget about me coming to talk to them about stories of the NFL, the fame, and the glory…they haven't forgotten much. This is hardly anything worth remembering. However, if people forget that I talked to them about Christ and His Resurrection Power that can change their lives, they have forgotten everything."
Lastly, there were three bits of advice that George wanted to give to new believers. "1) Don't do it alone. Surround yourself with believers that can help to mentor and disciple you…2) Seek out God's truth and convictions and learn to make them your own through Scripture and prayer…And 3) Always be a Christian on your knees. A prayerful attitude is important."