Clinton native James Mayo Faison, Jr. knew when he left Sampson County in 1999, after his Clinton High School graduation, that he was going to be tackled. He was off to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to earn his degree in biology and play football. He didn’t know, however, that one tackle in particular would change his life. It didn’t come from an opponent of a competing school; it came from God. In October 1999, Faison was “tackled by faith,” dedicating his heart to Jesus Christ.
Since then, he’s been doing the tackling — playing on God’s team and making differences in Jesus’ name all along the way. God called him into the ministry in May 2010 and now he is a minister at the Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Durham. Recently, Faison tackled a very special project that the Lord placed on his heart around seven years ago — writing his first book.
Published right before Christmas, “Tackled by Faith: When Sports and the Cross Collide” is Faison’s personal story of his experiences as a student athlete and his spiritual journey in rediscovering what success really is. Faison’s goal in the book is to help student athletes understand how to have a relationship with Jesus amidst success in school and sports. He wants them to learn that success needs to be considered in light of God’s Word and handled with care and humility.
“Success itself is not being redefined, but how people view success is. Most people view success in sports as going professional or becoming a Division 1 athlete, but true success is developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and growing in your walk with Him. For what does it benefit a main to gain the whole world yet lose his life?” says Faison, quoting Mark 8:36.
In his book, Faison writes that “today, we are not running out of athletes with talent and ability, but we are running out of those with godly character.” He goes on to encourage student athletes to “study the Word of God as you would study a playbook, exercise a healthy prayer life like you train for the spring, and brag about the goodness of Christ as if you have won the game!”
Knowing how important winning can be to student athletes, Faison also feels it’s important to address failure. In his book, he tells student athletes that “successes in life are God’s reminders that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). Failures are God’s reminders that you cannot do things in life on your own power and ability,” likely a hard concept for many athletes. Instead, “you must rely on Him. Any way you look at success of failure, Christ is needed for you to know how to handle them both.”
Although the book’s primary audience is student athletes, Faison is quick to point out that it also “has principles that many Christians can glean from.” He mentions some of the chapters in the book — “Character and Reputation,” “Pride and Humility,” and “Knowing How to Handle Success” — and believes that the topics covered, as spelled out in their titles, will interest and be applicable to everyone.
Faison has won the ultimate game in Jesus, but he stresses that the book is not really about him. “The book is an autobiography, but it’s main mission is not about me. It’s meant to direct people to Jesus,” says Faison. “It [dedicating his heart to Jesus] is the most important decision I’ve ever made. It helped me make other important, good decisions too. And it’s not something that’s just for a little while, you can carry your faith with you your whole life.”
As he continues along life’s journey, Faison keeps on tackling. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Information Sciences from NC Central University. He also has plans to continue writing, hoping to publish more books. “I’m planning on writing some more. I have an idea in mind right now that I’ve just started to work on a little. It’s a children’s book; I’d love to write it for my son. It’s going to be a while though. Right now, we’re focusing on this first book.”
“Tackled by Faith” is currently available for ordering online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. However, Faison hopes to eventually share it in a more personal way with his hometown. “I’d love to do an event, a book signing, in Clinton sometime.”
He’s eager to share this milestone with family, friends, and his hometown because “Clinton is always home. Even though I don’t know everyone in Clinton, whenever you talk to people there, it always feel like you know them, like their family.”
Faison is the only son of James and Denise Faison of Clinton. He currently resides in Durham with his wife and 20-month-old son. For more information about Faison and his book, visit tackledbyfaith.com.