Monday, January 12, 2009

Facing the Giants - A review

When Facing the Giants first came out, I heard many varying opinions about it. Perhaps the most predominant opinion was that Facing the Giants was nothing more than a movie wrapped up in the health, wealth and prosperity gospel. The movie is about a high school football coach (Grant Taylor) whose has a losing team, is on the road to losing his job, has a junker of a car, and, most worrisome to him and his wife, they are unable to have children. The coach turns to religion and everything – and I do mean, everything – miraculously turns out for the better. Sounds like a good, unhealthy dose of prosperity gospel, right? If you had asked me a week ago, I would have said the same thing.

Then I watched the movie. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First, let’s get the thing that everybody brings up when discussing Facing the Giants out of the way. The acting was horrible. There – it’s been said. Now we can move on to a more in depth review.

Coach Taylor is facing another year of high school football at Shiloh Christian Academy and knows that this year is going to be the same as previous years (or rather, the past 6 years, to be precise) without any hope of improvement. His team is mediocre at best. Compounding his problems is that there are some in town who consider his coaching abilities lackluster and are hinting at his dismissal. On top of all this, he and his wife are facing the heart wrenching likelihood of infertility. Everything in his life is failing. In utter despair, he reads Ps. 18:3, “I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.” He cries out to God, “You’re my God. You’re on the throne. You can have my hopes and my dreams.” This is the pivotal moment of the movie. From here, Taylor reevaluates his thinking in how he approaches life. The trickle down effect is that his team starts winning, the school experiences revival and his life in general gets better.

So how is this not a health, wealth and prosperity gospel? Just add Jesus to your life and everything gets better, right? On the surface and in summary form, this might be exactly what is being taught (which for the longest time, is the reason I had no desire to see the movie.) But there’s a huge difference between what the prosperity gospel teaches and what is taught in this movie. Prosperity gospel says if you do such and such, God is bound to give you the good life. If you just get your heart right, you’ll see the material blessings flow in. The problem with this philosophy is that the results are entirely centered on us, on what we get. In contrast, what the movie teaches is a God-centered gospel – a gospel where God gets the glory! In teaching others, Taylor stresses that the results should not determine whether we praise God or not. He asks his wife, “If the Lord never gives us children, will you still love Him?” In the locker room, he challenges his team by saying: “Winning football games is too small a thing to live for…So far all this has been about us. How we can look good. How we can get the glory…If we win, we praise Him. And if we lose, we praise Him. Either way, we honor him with our actions and our attitudes. I resolve to give God everything I’ve got and I leave the results up to him.”

That is no prosperity gospel. That is no philosophy that says “Name it and claim it.” That is reflective of the Biblical truth that says “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11). Is it a little unrealistic to see everything in a person’s life turned around for the good? Perhaps, but even here what man sees as utterly impossible, with God it is possible. There is a two-fold lesson in the movie. First is that, no matter what the outcome, God is to be praised first, foremost, and always. Second, God will get the glory when the impossible becomes possible through his power. When we come to face our own giants, we should be firm in our faith to give God the glory. If, like Paul, our giant isn’t slain, God promises grace sufficient for every battle so that his power will be made perfect. And if the impossible comes to pass, may we see God’s power and honor him. That’s the lesson of Facing the Giants, a movie I heartily recommend.

6 comments:

Piper said...

Thank you for the insight on the movie. I've avoided seeing it based on the complaints I've read...but I think just maybe I'll rent it. I'd like to know if you get around to a review of that Fireproof movie too.

Phil said...

Steve, great review - I thought Facing the Giatnts was an excellent presentation of this as well.

Fireproof is another one you need to see.

Michael said...

Great review! We enjoyed the movie and would definitely see it again.

thedesertpastor said...

Hello Stephen,

Very nice review. Have not yet seen the movie for fear of the same things you mention. Will definitely get it now and watch. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that the message in the movie was right, and I was liking the movie and feeling rather inspired by it, until everything started miraculously going right! The end result was still health, wealth and prosperity for faith/obedience, which is unrealistic and such a huge part of what made the movie so cheesy. For those who have walked in childlike faith and gratitude but have had to endure pain and hardship season after season, year after year, expecting all the while that God would make all things work together for good, and have still walked the talk, this movie is almost offensive. Who would want to see a losing team and a coach who can never catch a break, though, right? It's pretty hard to sell the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen, without this kind of glurge, I guess.

Stephen said...

Anon, thanks for the comment. While it may seem that the result was a health, wealth and prosperity message, I don't necessarily agree that just because everything worked out that it equates to such a message, for reasons I stated. But to your point, it is easy to see where such a message can be derived. Thanks again.