Faith & Service

Counting the Cost

February 20, 2015

So be it.

That’s the attitude that twin brothers and minor league baseball players turned real estate investors David and Jason Benham (’98) brought to the table when it came time to negotiate their stance on religious freedom in front of a national audience.

“With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today, you would think there would be room for twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals,” the Benhams wrote in a statement to the media after their home makeover reality show, “Flip it Forward,” was canceled by HGTV in May before its scheduled debut in October. “If our faith costs us a television show, then so be it.”

It’s also the theme of their book, “Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully,” published by Thomas Nelson and set for release on Feb. 10.

During Liberty’s Convocation on Oct. 8, the brothers inspired students with their story, describing their reaction when HGTV producers asked them to keep their beliefs to themselves after an activist group pressured the network.

“God put us in His little wringer and got us fired in front of a watching world.  We had to actually ask ourselves the question, ‘Are we willing to pay the price, to lose our show, to stand up for Christ and what we believe in?’ The answer was, ‘Yes, we will,’” David said. “Whatever the cost.”

“It’s a fun thing to follow Jesus,” Jason added, with a pause, “ … until you find out where He’s going, because He’s going to a cross, and He’s bidding you to follow Him.”

Shortly after they made national headlines, the Benhams were invited to Liberty’s Commencement as honored guests of President Jerry Falwell and his wife, Becki. Falwell commended them for standing firm in the face of an attack on religious liberty and honored them as true Champions for Christ.

The following Q&A is taken from their appearance at Convocation and an interview for Liberty Flames Sports Network’s “Game On:”

The Benham familyQ: Why did you come from Dallas, Texas, to attend Liberty on baseball scholarships?

A: (David) “We wanted big-time athletics with big-time facilities and a Christian influence, and we got that here. There’s no other university like it, so that’s why we chose Liberty. When we got here, we realized that the athletics department is a very tight-knit community, and it was awesome. Jason and I started Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 1995 here, and at our first service, we had 210 athletes come. We were shocked. It just showed how incredible the spiritual emphasis and the spiritual dynamic at Liberty is among the athletes.”

Q: How did Liberty change your lives, spiritually and professionally?

A: (David) “Our time here at Liberty greatly prepared us for success as business owners, husbands and fathers, and community leaders. Dr. Falwell (Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty’s founder) always said ‘We’re training up Champions for Christ,’ and the key with a champion means you’re a winner. When you go into culture — if you’re going to be an entertainer, or you’re going to be an athlete, or you’re going to be a stay-at-home mom or a husband — whatever it is, you want to be a winner. You want to be a champion for the glory of the Lord. Liberty gave us an excellent foundation to be champions, and we happened to take that into the marketplace, and the Lord really blessed it.”

Q: How have you managed to live out your faith in the face of persecution from liberal watchdog groups whose pressure on HGTV led to the cancellation of your show?

A: (David) “We purposed in our hearts, when we were 18, to read through Scripture. We made a commitment that we would not only try, to the best of our ability, in the classroom, but we also would read through the Bible every year while we were at Liberty. By the time we graduated, not only did we have degrees, but we had already read through the Bible four times. We began to order our lives according to this book. Guess what happens when you begin to build customs according to God? Those customs will come in conflict with culture. So what are you supposed to do when you get thrown into a lion’s den as Daniel was? Open up the windows and say, ‘What up? I’m not changing.’ So that’s the challenge: ‘choose you this day who you will serve.’ You cannot serve both God and man.”

Q: How much did Liberty’s support of your faith-based stand mean to you at Commencement last May?

A: (David) “When it all happened, when Right Wing Watch wrote the article and HGTV fired us, CNN had us on, and everything was going crazy. Jason and I were in the middle, at the epicenter, of a cultural battle. Then (President) Jerry Falwell texted us and said, ‘Guys, I’m going to fly you to graduation, and you’re going to be my guests of honor.’ He put us on the front row and then publicly, in front of all the world, said, ‘No matter what anyone says about you, your alma mater’s got your back,’ and 34,000 people rose to their feet and applauded. You’ll look back at the video, and we don’t cry easily, but we could not stop crying. We were bawling like babies because it felt so good to have a university back us.

“We know now that not only are Liberty grads in serious places of influence in this culture, but we have an entire nation of Liberty grads coming up behind us. I really believe Liberty is going to be the magnet that’s drawing the remnant together to take this culture back for Christ.”

Q: What are some principles you would encourage others to live by to experience success in their Christian walk?

A: (Jason) “One is to be faithful in little, paying attention to those really little things in your life. You can’t let those go unchecked. The second is to be a fountain and not a drain. If you think of a water fountain, a fountain is constantly giving; it’s constantly providing nourishment for other people. All it has to do is to be plugged into the source. A drain wants to be plugged into a fountain. A drain is constantly taking, and we said to ourselves, ‘We are going to be fountains. We are not going to be drains.’ And then, as you see, profit and success just chased after us.

“The third is to give more in value than you take in pay. Your responsibility is to work according to your ability and not according to the pay, and when you do that, you’re going to be so incredibly profitable. Apply that to a marriage relationship. In my relationship with my wife, if my concern is to give more to her and not concern myself with what I’m receiving from her, that is going to be a very profitable relationship. (For those who aren’t married) don’t go and try to find Mr. or Miss Right. Just be the type of person that would attract Mr. or Miss Right, and the right person will come to you.

“The fourth principle is to breathe life. You want to be the person that wherever you go, life follows you; life comes up from the dead. If it’s in a classroom or in the inner cities, wherever you go, you bring dead things to life because that’s the Christ inside of you.”

Q: How would you define greatness?

A: (Jason) “To me, greatness is the intersection of professional will and personal humility. You have ambition and a desire to accomplish things, but it’s coupled with personal humility — seeing yourself through the lens of who God is and who you are in relation to Him. It’s natural for human beings, because we’re made in God’s image, to aspire to greatness, but what David and I say is that you have to hold that with an open hand, and you have to die to your ideas of greatness and follow the great God.

“While we were at Liberty, we learned that whatever it is God has for you, just be valuable right where you are. We had always thought God had professional baseball set for us, and we were going to be hall of famers. Well, God had a different plan. We planned our course, and God directed our steps differently. We earned our real estate licenses, and God used that to get us to where we were owning a real estate company at 100 locations in 35 states.”

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