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David Wheaton: A Turn in the Right Direction

CBN.com Will Dawson [reporting]: He wasn’t born with a tennis racket in his hand, but it didn’t take long for David Wheaton to find one.

David Wheaton: At the youngest of age, I think I was four years old, I was taken down to the public courts just down the street from our house, and my mom started tossing me balls.  I was wearing like a stars and stripes speedo bathing suit with no other clothes on besides that with a little cut-off wood tennis racket.

Dawson: Do you have a picture of that?

Wheaton: I think I do, but I’m not going to show it to you.  I don’t want to be blackmailed later by it.

Dawson [reporting]: Eventually David gave in and shared this footage with us.  But despite his questionable fashion sense, David says childhood was a joy.

Wheaton: Part of that idyllic childhood had to do with the fact that my parents were very strong Christians.  They had a purpose in raising all of us to be followers of Christ.  So I really had a great modeling in the home of what it meant to be a Christian.

Dawson [reporting]: His parents encouraged him as he developed his tennis game to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tennis player.  David made the high school tennis team when he was in the seventh grade.  As a freshman, he won the Minnesota state championship.  At 15 David was offered a full scholarship to the famous Nick Bollatieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he competed against other young upcoming stars like André Agassi and Jim Courier.

Wheaton: I was in that realm of being in the very competitive junior tennis world, playing tournaments throughout the year.  It’s a pretty tough scene actually.  Tennis was really my focus at that particular point in my life. 

Dawson [reporting]: David won the U.S. Open junior title and achieved a number one ranking in the junior tennis circuit in 1987.  The following year he accepted a tennis scholarship to Stanford – one of the premiere college tennis programs in the nation. As a Christian though, David found more challenges in college off the court than on it. 

Wheaton: Going to college is hard.  You are away from your parents for the first time, the temptations of the flesh on campus, sexual immorality, drugs and alcohol.  So going off to college I went down that sort of partying lifestyle, and I was going down the wrong path.

Dawson [reporting]: Although David was making poor choices in his personal life, his tennis career was taking off.  He helped Stanford win the 1988 national championship his freshman year.  From there he pursued his lifelong dream of playing professionally.  In 1990 just two years after he turned pro, David won his first major tournament. 

Wheaton: I beat Agassi and [Ivan] Lendl along the way to get to the semi-finals of Wimbledon that year, and so it was a very heady time sort of jumping up the ranks quickly.

Dawson [reporting]: David qualified to play in the year-end Grand Slam Cup.  At the time it was the biggest prize money event in the history of tennis.  David beat Michael Chang in the finals in front of a worldwide audience.  But to his surprise, the thrill of victory quickly evaporated.

Wheaton: Within 10 or 15 minutes after the biggest win of my career, biggest moment of my life in tennis up to that point, most everyone was gone.  I remember thinking, ‘Wow! That was really over in a hurry.  My goodness!  Where’s the victory lap here?  Am I going to be running around the court or what’s going on?!’  And it was the first time in my life where I really realized that fame, fortune, success, what so many people chase after in life -- that wasn’t going to be very fulfilling.

Dawson [reporting]: That’s when David began to question his purpose in life.

Wheaton: My relationship with my parents was very broken because of the way I was living my life. My relationship with God was obviously very broken.  The relationships I had with other people were not right and just the things going on in my life.  Yeah, outwardly I was very successful, but inwardly, I was very conflicted.

Dawson [reporting]: David turned to the his Bible for answers.

Wheaton: As I began to read the Word and just be under the conviction of God in my life,  I came to realize how much I was offending God with my life and how much I couldn’t change myself.  At that particular time over that month or two period, I came to a point of real repentance in my life, and I committed to following Christ. I believed that He was the Savior of my sin, and I trusted to follow Him as Lord.  My life changed immediately 180 degrees in the right direction.

Dawson [reporting]: David went on to win four more tournament titles that spanned a 13-year career.  Now 40, he still plays occasionally on the senior circuit.  In fact he and his partner won the 35 and over doubles tournament at Wimbledon in 2004.   Most of his focus these days though is as an author and host of a nationally broadcast radio talk show called The Christian Worldview.  But of all his successes, there is one David regards more highly than any others.

Wheaton: Being in a right relationship with your Creator, being reconciled to God --  this is the highest purpose in life.  You can have everything. You can have nothing. Whatever situation you are in if you’re not in a right relationship with the God of this universe, you are never going to have a satisfying fulfilling life on earth. There’s the eternal benefit of having eternal life with Christ in heaven.  What’s more important than that?

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Transcript

Will Dawson [reporting]: He wasn’t born with a tennis racket in his hand, but it didn’t take long for David Wheaton to find one. David Wheaton: At the youngest of age, I think I was four years old, I was taken down to the public courts just down the street from our house, and my mom started tossing me balls. I was wearing like a stars and stripes speedo bathing suit with no other clothes on besides that with a little cut-off wood tennis racket. Dawson: Do you have a picture of that? Wheaton: I think I do, but I’m not going to show it to you. I don’t want to be blackmailed later by it. Dawson [reporting]: Eventually David gave in and shared this footage with us. But despite his questionable fashion sense, David says childhood was a joy. Wheaton: Part of that idyllic childhood had to do with the fact that my parents were very strong Christians. They had a purpose in raising all of us to be followers of Christ. So I really had a great modeling in the home of what it meant to be a Christian. Dawson [reporting]: His parents encouraged him as he developed his tennis game to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tennis player. David made the high school tennis team when he was in the seventh grade. As a freshman, he won the Minnesota state championship. At 15 David was offered a full scholarship to the famous Nick Bollatieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he competed against other young upcoming stars like André Agassi and Jim Courier. Wheaton: I was in that realm of being in the very competitive junior tennis world, playing tournaments throughout the year. It’s a pretty tough scene actually. Tennis was really my focus at that particular point in my life.  Dawson [reporting]: David won the U.S. Open junior title and achieved a number one ranking in the junior tennis circuit in 1987. The following year he accepted a tennis scholarship to Stanford – one of the premiere college tennis programs in the nation. As a Christian though, David found more challenges in college off the court than on it.  Wheaton: Going to college is hard. You are away from your parents for the first time, the temptations of the flesh on campus, sexual immorality, drugs and alcohol. So going off to college I went down that sort of partying lifestyle, and I was going down the wrong path. Dawson [reporting]: Although David was making poor choices in his personal life, his tennis career was taking off. He helped Stanford win the 1988 national championship his freshman year. From there he pursued his lifelong dream of playing professionally. In 1990 just two years after he turned pro, David won his first major tournament.  Wheaton: I beat Agassi and [Ivan] Lendl along the way to get to the semi-finals of Wimbledon that year, and so it was a very heady time sort of jumping up the ranks quickly. Dawson [reporting]: David qualified to play in the year-end Grand Slam Cup. At the time it was the biggest prize money event in the history of tennis. David beat Michael Chang in the finals in front of a worldwide audience. But to his surprise, the thrill of victory quickly evaporated. Wheaton: Within 10 or 15 minutes after the biggest win of my career, biggest moment of my life in tennis up to that point, most everyone was gone. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! That was really over in a hurry. My goodness! Where’s the victory lap here? Am I going to be running around the court or what’s going on?!’ And it was the first time in my life where I really realized that fame, fortune, success, what so many people chase after in life -- that wasn’t going to be very fulfilling. Dawson [reporting]: That’s when David began to question his purpose in life. Wheaton: My relationship with my parents was very broken because of the way I was living my life. My relationship with God was obviously very broken. The relationships I had with other people were not right and just the things going on in my life. Yeah, outwardly I was very successful, but inwardly, I was very conflicted. Dawson [reporting]: David turned to the his Bible for answers. Wheaton: As I began to read the Word and just be under the conviction of God in my life, I came to realize how much I was offending God with my life and how much I couldn’t change myself. At that particular time over that month or two period, I came to a point of real repentance in my life, and I committed to following Christ. I believed that He was the Savior of my sin, and I trusted to follow Him as Lord. My life changed immediately 180 degrees in the right direction. Dawson [reporting]: David went on to win four more tournament titles that spanned a 13-year career. Now 40, he still plays occasionally on the senior circuit. In fact he and his partner won the 35 and over doubles tournament at Wimbledon in 2004. Most of his focus these days though is as an author and host of a nationally broadcast radio talk show called The Christian Worldview. But of all his successes, there is one David regards more highly than any others. Wheaton: Being in a right relationship with your Creator, being reconciled to God -- this is the highest purpose in life. You can have everything. You can have nothing. Whatever situation you are in if you’re not in a right relationship with the God of this universe, you are never going to have a satisfying fulfilling life on earth. There’s the eternal benefit of having eternal life with Christ in heaven. What’s more important than that?

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