DayOne incorporating the Lord's Day Observance Society
"The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath"
Mark 2 v 27
STANDING UP FOR THE LORD’S DAY
Dan Walker is a presenter for BBC Sport and BBC Sports News
‘You will not get anywhere with an attitude like that!’ Those are the words that were ringing in my ears as I left the offices of a major radio station in London back in 2000.
The interviewers were under the impression that what I had written in my CV about not working on a Sunday was a joke. When I explained that I was a Christian, and why I felt the way I did, one of them just sat there with his mouth wide open for about ten seconds. It was a great job and they fully expected me to give up everything to work for them.
It was a similar story at a television company six months later. I explained my convictions about Sunday, but the boss was convinced that if he actually offered me the job, and threw in a big pay rise, I would just take it. I didn’t.
Sport has always been a big part of my life. As a kid I used to pretend to be Glenn Hoddle for weeks on end in our back garden. I played tennis to quite a high standard but football was my real passion. When I was twelve, and about two feet taller than all the other kids, I was asked by quite a few teams to play for them. The problem was all their games were on a Sunday. I had only recently become a Christian and this was the first time in my life I was confronted with the issue of how I should be spending my Sundays.
I firmly believe that God was using that experience—even at an early age—to prepare me for situations in the future when I would need much stronger convictions.
Once I had finished university, I got a job at a radio station in Manchester, called Key 103, reading the sport bulletins and commentating on Manchester United and Manchester City. My boss at the time was brilliant and explained that, although he thought my career would be restricted by my convictions, he would do his best to help. He never even asked me to work on the Lord’s Day in four years.
When the time came to leave Key 103, that is when things became a little more difficult. For about twelve months every job offer was dependent upon Sunday work. Eventually I had an interview at ITV where I told the editor that if she gave me just a three-month contract to prove myself I would show her that Sundays would not be an issue—and if they were—they could let me go. Whether my frustrations made me more persuasive I don’t know, but I was given a twelve-month contract at ITV in November 2003.
I had always been told that my feelings about Sundays might make working for the BBC a little difficult. God also dealt with that potential problem. After six great months at ITV, the editor who had hired me moved to the BBC. Her first job was to offer me a contract. It was another indication of God’s goodness in honouring those that were trying to honour him. Two years on from that I am now presenting sport on News 24 and working on the 6 Nations, the Grand National and the Open Golf for BBC Sport and covering football for Final Score, Match of the Day and Football Focus.
Working on the Open Golf is the perfect example of how God can provide in a seemingly impossible situation. Golf is one of my favourite sports but, with every tournament finishing on a Sunday, I thought it was something I would never be able to work on. This year I was asked to cover The Open at Royal Birkdale. I explained my situation and—almost incredibly—the editor of the programme said he saw Sunday as a challenge for him to get round rather than a reason to exclude me from the team! Two weeks later he called back to offer me another role at Birkdale that meant I could go home on the Saturday night. It was the sort of experience that makes you ask God to forgive you for ever doubting his providence.
People often say it must be really hard to be a Christian and do the work that I do; I disagree. I think my job puts me in the same situations that everyone else faces. The only difference is that people who work in the media are usually paid to have opinions so you can get involved in some heated debates! I have been shouted at, insulted, stabbed in the back, laughed at and ignored but I have also worked with, and met, some great characters and been given plenty of opportunities to talk to people about the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of those opportunities came a few months ago. I received a call from a radio producer in Liverpool who wanted to book me as a guest for a show called ‘Bring Back Sunday’. The presenter of the show on City Talk in Liverpool—who wasn’t a Christian—wanted me to come on and talk about why I thought Sunday was, and should be, a different day of the week. I jumped at the chance and emailed all my friends to pray for this great opportunity where I expected a grilling. But, for the best part of thirty minutes, I was given the opportunity to talk openly about my faith, my conviction about Sundays and declare the love of Jesus Christ. The presenter’s final question was ‘So Dan, what would be your message to our listeners tonight?’ I never expected he would give me such an ‘open goal’ for the gospel!
One thing I am aware of is that there might be a stage in my career where I can no longer be a faithful witness to Christ and continue working as a TV presenter. There are certain jobs I have to turn down and certain subjects I feel uncomfortable with but God has not yet presented me with a situation where I have to choose his glory and honour over my own ambitions.
Many people—even Christians—have asked me why I feel so strongly about the Lord’s Day. For me it seems quite obvious. God, our creator, has given it to us for our own good. Some will argue that Jesus Christ’s coming means we are no longer obligated to keep it special but that is a viewpoint I fundamentally disagree with.
There are still ten commandments and it is more important than ever before to guard the fourth one jealously. I think it is also essential to stress the importance of being part of a ‘local’ church. The church, the corporate worship of God, and the preaching of the Word are three of the main things Satan aims to undermine in the lives of Christians. I know that I would suffer both spiritually and practically if I started working on Sunday. I don’t think our attitude to the Lord’s day is a ‘salvation’ issue but I do firmly believe that it is a sign of our spiritual temperature. What does it say about us if we would rather be on a football pitch than in the presence of God’s people hearing his Word?
Don’t get me wrong—I still get itchy feet when I drive past a game on a Sunday or see someone getting ready for a game of golf—but we live in a world where every corner of our Christian witness is being eaten away. By making Sunday special we immediately show that God makes a difference to the way we live our lives.
When people at work ask me why I wasn’t covering something like the Wimbledon final, it gives me the perfect opportunity to tell them why I wasn’t there and what I was doing instead. The fact that I turned down a lifetime ambition to work on The Open showed the editor of the programme that my faith in Jesus Christ really mattered. It seems weird but God has given me the chance to talk to people like David Beckham and Noel Gallagher about why I would rather go to church on a Sunday.
When I first decided to make a stand I wasn’t sure how things would pan out. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain my Christian witness. I wasn’t sure I was in the right profession. Now, looking back, I can see that God has clearly guided my steps over the past few years. Doors have been shut that looked right at the time and doors have been opened that I didn’t even know where there. I have been given the words to speak in difficult situations and I have been given peace with hard decisions.
I still have to guard against pride (my wife is particularly helpful when it comes to keeping that in check!) and I need to regularly remind myself that everything I have comes from God. Although I enjoy working hard, and want to do my best, my current position is down to God’s goodness and plan for my life. I have not yet bumped into the bloke who told me I would never get anywhere with ‘an attitude like that’. Hopefully one day I will see him again and be able to testify of God’s gracious provision for his people!
Dan Walker attends Amyand Park Chapel in Twickenham, London.
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