Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren congratulated Michael Phelps for his record 23rd gold medal at the Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro, and reminded him that God has a plan for his life.
“Saw Michael Phelps, #PurposeDrivenSwimmer, win his 23rd gold! I’ve prayed for you each day in Rio. God has a great future for you,” Warren wrote in a Facebook message on Sunday.
Phelps, the most accomplished swimmer in Olympic history, scored five gold medals and a silver in the Rio Games, bringing his career total to a record 23 golds, and 28 medals overall.
“Wow! The best way to finish! It has truly been an honor to represent the USA. A dream come true!” the 31-year-old athlete wrote on Facebook after his final win.
While Phelps, who has a three-month-old son, Boomer, with fiance Nicole Johnson, is currently resting on his laurels, his life wasn’t always so positive: The athlete revealed in a recent ESPN documentary he was considering suicide in 2014, even after his extraordinary success during the 2012 Olympics.
“I thought the world would just be better off without me,” he said recalling the dark time. “I figured that was the best thing to do – just end my life.”
Friend and former NFL player Ray Lewis thankfully stepped in to encourage Phelps to seek the help of a rehab center, and he gave him a book: The Purpose Driven Life, by Warren.
After checking into a rehab center, Phelps started reading the book — and it changed his life, prompting fellow patients to dub him “pastor Mike”.
Just a few days into rehab, Lewis said Phelps called him to talk about the book. “Man, this book is crazy,” Lewis said Phelps told him, “I cannot thank you enough, man. You saved my life.”
The book made Phelps more aware of God, according to what he told ESPN: “It’s turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself, and there is a purpose for me on this planet. It helped me when I was in a place when I needed the most help.”
Additionally, the book and his time in rehab convinced Phelps to try to reconcile with his father, which he has been able to do.
In a separate interview, Phelps told “Today:” “I don’t know if it was, like, afraid of just letting go and showing who I am or what it was. And, and I finally was just, like, ‘You know what? Screw this. I’m not, I’m not hiding behind anything anymore. I am who I am. And, and you don’t like it, it’s really not my issue and it’s not my problem.'”
The Purpose Driven Life is one of the most translated books around the world, according to Zondervan, and was on the New York Times Bestseller List for over 90 weeks. The book topped the Wall Street Journal best seller charts as well as Publishers Weekly charts with over 30 million copies sold by 2007.