I confess – I love football. And because I do, I also love movies about football. I love movies such as The Blind Side, Remember the Titans, Facing the Giants, Rudy, We Are Marshall, When the Game Stands Tall, Woodlawn, and the football movie I first fell in love with, Brian’s Song.
It doesn’t hurt that most of these movies are true stories about real life people. I find these movies inspiring, I guess because there are always obstacles to be overcome in every story. In each movie, there is conflict both on and off the field. Each player must have the commitment, the conviction and the courage to face their challenges (on and off the field) or neither they nor their team will succeed in the end.
In these movies, the players faithfully and fearlessly pursue their passion to the bitter end. Rudy was one such individual. Even though he was too small to be seriously considered for college football and he didn’t have the grades to get into Notre Dame, his dream was to play football for this university. Through hard work academically, he eventually became a student at Notre Dame but then had to make the team as a walk on. He made the team but was told he would never dress for a game, even though he endured the grueling practices and scrimmages against the starters, the purpose of which was to make them better and prepare them for the next game.
Rudy was never going to be in the limelight or become famous. But he showed up week after week to practice and gave it his all. Finally there comes a moment in the movie where Rudy considers quitting. Fortunately, he gets some good advice and he doesn’t give up. Toward the end of the movie, he does get to dress for the final game of his senior year. It is then we see the impact his persistence and dedication to the game and to his teammates has had on other people.
His contribution to the team turns out not to be in tackles, in throwing passes or in scoring touchdowns. It turns out to be in the lives he encouraged and inspired as he continued to show up day after day in pursuit of his dream. Rudy didn’t realize he was making a difference in so many lives, but he was – just by having the courage not to quit. Rudy’s impact did not show up on the scoreboard, it showed up in the lives of those he inspired.
In pursuing his own dream wholeheartedly, Rudy encouraged others to do the same. Maybe that’s why we like football as spectators. We love the drama, we love the contest, the conflict, the facing of fears, the overcoming of obstacles – the uncertainty of the outcome, the ever present possibility of the last second score as the game clock runs out.
I love football because it is a metaphor for life. And as it turns out, Vince Lombardi agrees with me. He said, “Football is like life. It requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority.” Lombardi used words like sacrifice and self-denial, which aren’t all that popular today. Neither is respect for authority, come to think of it.
Reminds me of something Jesus said in Luke 9:23-26. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Deny himself? Daily carry a cross? (bear a burden) Follow someone in authority over me? Clearly, a life of faith, like football, is not for the faint of heart. To walk in faith, day after day, requires commitment, conviction and courage. (the three “C”s of football and of faith)
And just like football, life is filled with pain and setbacks and failure. But Jesus (my life coach) knew that would be the case when He warned, “All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In other words, in football speak, hold that line. You may have to endure some hits but stand firm as it says in Matthew 10:22.
Football is about overcoming obstacles, about fighting the enemy – so is faith. Both require perseverance. In Remember the Titans the enemy was racial prejudice. In Brian’s Song the enemy was cancer. In We are Marshall the enemy was loss, overwhelming loss of life. Could a new team come to life after such a loss? Every ounce of courage was needed to answer that question.
Who is the enemy of my faith? Ephesians 6:12 tells me, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
I am also told in 1 Peter 5:8-9 that, ” . . . Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” What should I do in response? “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (there’s that standing firm again)
In football and in faith, perseverance seems to be key. James 1:2-4 tells me to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I am called to persevere. I have plenty of opportunity during these days to practice perseverance. By God’s grace I will persevere through COVID and conflict, through layoffs and losses, through fear and through failure, through weakness and through weariness – until I come out on the other side with faith mature as James said, not lacking anything, but full of hope and strength, standing firm in the stance of faith.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men (women) of courage; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
sincerely, Grace Day