|IANTS AREN'T ALWAYS as scary as they seem. That point was driven home brilliantly by a movie I just screened.|
It's not a high-end Hollywood production like Friday Night Lights or Remember the Titans. It won't produce any Oscar winners. It probably won't rake in millions of dollars.
That isn't the goal, of course, of Facing the Giants. It's a film that is a testament itself to the fact that, as Jesus says in Matthew 19:26, "[W]ith God all things are possible."
Quick synopsis: A football coach at a Christian high school is seeing his career and his hopes for children slip away. Just when things hit bottom, he comes to realize his approach to coaching and life has been off-center. His revived faith inspires his players and, ultimately, the other students and their parents. Things start turning around for the coach, the team, and others around them.
On the surface, it could appear to be a movie that promises good things to those who obey God. Certainly, good things do happen to God's children, but faith in Him doesn't guarantee us a happy family or a winning football team.
This movie was written, directed and produced by members of a church in Albany, Georgia. Only five movie professionals actually worked on it, and hundreds of unpaid volunteers devoted time and energy to the process. It cost about $100,000 to make.
The senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, Michael Catt, encouraged member Alex Kendrick to pursue his dream of making Christian movies. Catt was executive producer of Giants, and while he realized a Christian film would be looked at differently, he knew it could be successful.
"Think like you've got a big God," Catt told Kendrick, who was the writer, director and lead actor.
God's hand, I firmly believe, is on this film. It's a very straightforward, honest effort. The characters seem as real as the people I deal with every day in my job covering high school sports.
The struggles of Kendrick's character, Grant Taylor, and his wife are real to me. The division within the school over Taylor's job status, the emotional, academic and spiritual apathy of the players -- those are things I see too often.
What makes this movie compelling, though, is the way it shows the power of God through faithful followers. Not the power of faith -- remember, the first part of Matthew 19:26, talking about a rich man entering heaven, says, "With man this is impossible ..." -- but the power God displays in those who "prepare their field."
That phrase is central to the movie. An older man encourages Coach Taylor by telling him a story about two farmers pleading with God for rain. The man tells Coach Taylor, "God will send the rain when He's ready. You need to prepare your field to receive it."
That means we need to not just expect God to shower us with blessings.
We are not to be passive sons and daughters of God. We are to take hold of our faith, work toward Godly ends, and trust that He will produce fruit in our lives. The man also tells Coach Taylor, "Until the Lord moves you, you're to bloom right where you're planted."
So the coach does just that. He writes a new team philosophy; he demands that his players focus on giving their best effort every moment, and praise God in victory or defeat; he comes to understand that in his own personal struggles, he must praise God regardless of the outcome.
Numerous times he illustrates to his players how much God can accomplish through them. He assures them that "God cares about football, because He cares about you." The players are inspired to play harder, lead better, and work more diligently in the classroom.
This movie achieves its purpose without being hokey or preachy. One of the key characters is a scrawny, self-doubting kicker named David Childers (the name isn't random, hint, hint). God uses both David's father and his coaches to inspire him, their heartfelt words and support helping him overcome his fragile psyche.
Anyone else doubting God's power can't help but walk away from this movie not only encouraged, but firmly convinced of it. God can conquer all fears, all obstacles, all giants in our lives. You may see some turning points in the movie coming, you may think the acting isn't super (though it's better than you might assume), you may be shocked by the total lack of special effects.
But if you're like me, you'll leave this movie amazed at how God can work. On the morning of the biggest game of his life, Coach Taylor is told by his wife, Brooke: "Sounds like your fear is about to collide with your faith."
With God, fear will lose every time, no matter how big it is.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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