Name: Max Priestley
University / College: Abilene Christian University
Height / Weight: 6’2” 225 lbs
Degree Sought: Kinesiology with a minor in Christian Ministry
To start things off, let’s begin with some general “get to know you” kinds of questions.
F&F: Are you from a small town or big city?
MP: I’m from a small town in Southern California called Corona Del Mar.
F&F: How did you keep active where you grew up?
MP: I played every kind of sport you could think of in my area: football, basketball, baseball, karate, wrestling, track and field. I also participated in beach activities such as surfing, swimming, running on the beach, and lifeguard training.
I began weightlifting when I was 12. I found a true passion for football, weightlifting, and wrestling.
F&F: What do you do for fun? Tell us what makes it fun for you.
MP: I really enjoy intense weight training and Boot Camp style workouts. These allow me to challenge myself and push my body to its edge.
I also love reading.
It is, by far, one of my favorite hobbies. Whenever I have free time, the first thing I want to do is pick up a book by some of my favorite pastors and teachers such as Randy Harris, C.S. Lewis, Gary Thomas, and Mike Erre. I believe it’s extremely important to learn and grow by reading Spiritual Formation books.
F&F: Engaging the mind as well as the body – that’s fantastic! So given that you like to read in order learn and grow, do you have any “life” goals? How else are you working toward them?
MP: Honestly, my goal in life is just to help people and try and bring the Kingdom of God here on Earth. The best way I know how to do that is serve others by being a personal trainer. When you train someone not only do they trust you with their physical health, but their mental and spiritual health as well. This training opportunity becomes a great way for me to minister to them, and help them achieve their goals.
F&F: That is really great Max. Is this kind of goal why you decided to go to Abilene?
MP: I came to ACU because I wanted to challenge my faith and become closer to God, and that’s exactly what I achieved.
F&F: That’s great! Through this achievement, then, have your expectations when you first started now been realized through these four years?
MP: Because I was at a Christian University, my expectations were that everyone there was a Christian and that there weren’t any parties or drugs. I thought the most difficult thing I might face would be football practice.
I was completely wrong.
Over the course of these last four years I have dealt with disease, injury, death, breakups, depression and much more. I believe that God shaped my character into what it is now because of these things. I had my faith tested throughout the course of my college career and was brought to the end of my rope where all I had left to cling to was Jesus. I truly believe Jesus blessed me with the small community and fellow brothers and mentors at ACU that surrounded me during these times of darkness and showed Himself through that. My expectations of “the college life” had never been more wrong, for all the right reasons.
F&F: Wow Max, I praise God for the work He has done through your Faith Community at Abilene! What a witness to the perseverance of God’s love through His people.
F&F: Let’s switch gears for a minute into some more fitness specific questions. In regards to your early interests in sports, how did you first get interested in exercise and living a fit lifestyle over being active from an early age?
MP: I have always been a really active guy but because I was always heavier than most - I was even put on the offensive line for football. Once I got to college, I packed on almost 50lbs of weight. A good portion was fat but I still had a lot of muscle and was fast.
Then I got injured and tore my ACL. When that happened I decided to retire and hang up my jersey. I then realized how heavy and unhealthy I was now that I wasn’t playing football. My heaviest was 300lbs. I instantly started training and dieting. Because I didn’t have football to challenge me any more, I had to find something else, and that became my weight loss goals.
My senior year I lost about 70lbs - but I couldn’t attribute the weight loss to myself. It was not by my own will that I was able to train and diet like I did. I had a fire within me put there by the Holy Spirit who made my way clear and guided me to victory. Once I knew I could accomplish anything with Christ at my side I wanted to pay it forward and help others with their struggle with weight loss or muscle gains, whatever it may be.
F&F: It is a powerful thing how God uses the things we love to draw us closer to Him. From your witness earlier through this weight loss it seems God has used various parts of your life to draw you to Himself. What an awesome thing!
So in thinking about where you are now with your stature and weight, what physical qualities do you think your friends feel best qualify you as a top bod?
MP: I honestly don’t think it is my body that draws people to me. I think it is my tenacity to put my mind to something and achieve it. No one believed that I could lose the weight and still keep my muscle tone. So to see me at 225lbs, people are now able to see how much God worked in my life to help me lose that weight. I’m not sure fitness can be defined by a “top bod” but rather honing your body’s capability to its fullest potential; God’s given the gift of a healthy body.
F&F: What a powerful testimony to those who struggle with how they look – even when active. Thank you for that. So with your journey in weight-loss and experience with being active most of your life, what are your favorite exercises and why?
MP: I love running because it allows me to free my mind and push my body to exhaustion. Lifting is also a great feeling. Leg day and arm day have to be my favorite muscle groups and days to train. It gets the blood to flow throughout your body and gives you an incredible pump that might only last a little while, but makes you feel invincible!
F&F: Do you work out with friends? If so, tell us about that and how it is different from when you workout alone.
MP: I will lift with friends when necessary but most of the time I enjoy training alone. It allows me to focus more intensely and concentrate on getting the most out of my workouts. When I train with friends it is more for fun and the comradery can create a more competitive atmosphere that gets us pumped up, which I love and thrive on. I still prefer to train alone though.
F&F: So give us a glimpse into your solo routine …
MP: It consists of cardio every morning (3 mile run or Stairmaster for 45 min) and weight training in the evening (focusing on one muscle group each day, Tuesday-shoulders, Thursday-arms, Friday-chest, Saturday-back, Sunday- legs) On Monday and Wednesday I just do cardio.
F&F: With your weightloss I am interested to know what your nutrition plan is like, can you tell us about your nutrition plan?
MP: I consume all my carbs and fruits in the morning and early afternoon. After that I stick to chicken, fish, or steak and a salad or mixed greens. For snacks throughout the day I will have almonds with an apple or peanut butter with a banana, or even a fruit smoothie.
F&F: Any plans to compete in athletics or in fitness or bodybuilding competitions? If so, tell us about it.
MP: I don’t plan on competing in any bodybuilding competitions but my next challenge will be training with the Marine Corps recruiting class twice a week to see if I can become a 2nd Lieutenant. I will also be practicing on the weekends with the OC Highlanders to compete in the Scottish games in May (hammer throw, shot put, caber toss, anvil throw, etc.)
F&F: Dude that sounds awesome! So thinking about these competitions and your desire to minister through being a Personal Trainer, I’d like to ask you some witness specific questions …
Let me start with asking you to describe briefly how you came to know Christ as your personal savior …
MP: My family and I were the typical Sunday morning churchgoers until I got into high school. Up until then it was always, “say your prayers, read your bible, go to church on Sunday, and don’t do anything bad.” So once I reached high school I said to myself, “there has to be more to this!” That is when I started getting really involved with my faith. I started playing bass for the worship team at our church and started engaging in community with other Christians my age. My faith, at that point, had still been fairly superficial and I wanted to dive into the deeper ways of what it meant to be a follower of Christ.
That’s why I went to ACU. After going through some of the darkest moments of my life - up to now - I was brought to the end of myself, realizing that the only thing that could save me was Christ. Now I am fully committed to the coming of the Kingdom and I actively try to live out the virtues and blessings that Christ spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I pray that every day God can empower me with strength to be a beacon of light, a sign of hope, a bearer of peace, and a source of courage for those who are in need.
As I mentioned in previous answers some of my darkest hours came out of the years that I was in college and it has truly humbled me.
“The steps that lead to thrones are stained with spattered blood, we will wrestle our crowns from the giants we conquer” –Streams In the Desert
F&F: As you have been through a good deal of “stuff” at Abilene, what are some of the spiritual discoveries you have made while at college? How is that shaping the way you live and interact with others?
MP: Wow, I could write a book about this question (haha)! I’ll give you my favorite story in the Bible to describe my years in college; it’s the story of Gideon and his 300 men. Even though Gideon was the weakest in his tribe, God specifically chose him to lead an army against the invading Northern Tribes.
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:15-18)
Gideon’s army was vastly outnumbered by the Midianites and yet God still commanded that Gideon get rid of some of his men so that when they won the battle, they would know it was God’s strength that brought them through the fight.
“You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.”
God proceeded to get rid of even more men leaving Gideon with only 300. The battle was won with only these 300 and Gideon realized that the victory did not come from his own will but from God.
To answer the second question, I will recite a verse from 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
The way I live and interact with others is by every day trying to live to the glory and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and I do so by following the teachings and blessings of Jesus.
F&F: Wow man, you sure you don’t want to be a pastor! Let me take all you have said so far and get into some formation types of questions for our readers …
How do you feel living a healthy life and being active impacts both your academic success and your relationship with God?
MP: By training and working out, not only do you improve your physical health but your mental and spiritual health. The endorphins and neurotransmitters that are released when you work out can improve brain function, emotion, and much more. I believe to have a healthy mind and spiritual life it is extremely important to exercise.
For me specifically, training is my worship to God. The fact that I can move, run, jump, lift, etc, allows me to give glory to God for the bodies that he has given us. We are created in his image, and I believe it is dangerous, if not sinful, if we do not take care of the gift of the body the Lord has given us.
F&F: That is really great, Max, and I agree with you. I feel the same way myself and about how taking care of ourselves reflects our stewardship of what God has given us. Given this, what are the most visible characteristics of your personal faith in God?
MP: My weakness and failures. Without them, people wouldn’t be able to see the glory, compassion and grace that Christ offers us in our Christian faith. I would like to say that my most visible characteristics are my humility or my discipline but it is the fact that I continually try to live those characteristics out and yet fail at them daily that makes our God so great. As I said above, I closely try and live out the life that Jesus preaches in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I have memorized it in order to call upon his teaching whenever I am in need. I am not perfect at living out his teachings, but I am actively pursuing that lifestyle.
F&F: What is the biggest spiritual challenges you face OR in what ways do you feel you still need to grow spiritually?
MP: At this moment in my life, my biggest challenges deal with lust and self-glorification.
F&F: Those challenges are things we men often deal with, and we join in prayer with you over those things. Thanks for sharing that with us, brother.
How is your prayer life?
MP: Currently I am in somewhat of a desert. But I have found peace there and continue to live for the sake of which Christ died, the Kingdom of Heaven.
F&F: How is your “church” life (tell us about any campus faith-based organization[s] you attend or church you attend)
MP: My church life is fun at this time in my life. Sunday mornings I listen to one of my favorite pastors at Coast Hills church and Sunday night I go to a college ministry devoted to helping brothers and sisters of Christ that are my age find meaning and purpose in a broken and culturally upside down world.
At ACU I am involved in a covenant brotherhood called Tau Chai Alpha or TXA. The select few of us that were chosen by the school display Christ-like qualities and are committed to living out the Sermon on the Mount by being a light to those around us.
F&F: That’s really great man. So as a senior and you are thinking about graduating and moving on, what is on the horizon for your career? Is everything coming together well for it?
MP: I have just accepted a personal training position at 24-Hour Fitness in Orange County, CA. While training professionally, I would also like to participate in acting and stunt work for film and TV. I have an agent and have started the process towards auditioning.
Another thing I feel I have been called to do is enter into the United States Marine Corps. It has been a dream and a passion of mine to be a soldier to protect my family and country. I have already started studying for Officer Candidate School and will be training to be at my peak physical performance to excel in Marine Corps boot camps.
How do you feel you will balance your career and your commitment to fitness in the future?
MP: I don’t feel that I will need to balance fitness with my career. Fitness will always be a part of my life. It has never been just a hobby for me. God has given me a passion for it and a passion to help others with it.
If anything, my exercise and fitness lifestyle will become more intense and disciplined.