{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/qT0aE4iAnJo?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}I need to confess to you that I am neither an athlete nor a sports fanatic.  While I do enjoy cheering the Texas Rangers on from time to time, I find myself lost in most conversations centering around sports.  However, stories about sports often make great films that can be quite inspiring.  “When the Game Stands Tall” is a particularly interesting true story because the adversity the team overcomes is caused by their own success.  

The De La Salle High School Spartans football team of Concord, California had the longest unbroken winning streak in American sports history—151 games without a loss.  While the over-arching plot is predictable (as most sports stories that make it to film are), the lessons learned along the way are many and rich.  

Every game the Spartans played during what became known as “The Streak” was historic.  Every game was an opportunity to continue further into the sports hall of fame or become known as the team that lost “The Streak.”  Talk about pressure.  Among life’s trials, two of the greatest are success and failure.  How we handle each reveals what we practically believe about God.    

Coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel, taught his team the lesson of Matthew 23:13: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled. And whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”  A review from Roger Ebert’s website explains that the coach “underplays the importance of collecting trophies and beating opponents and instead promotes a sense of brotherhood, having your teammate’s back and pushing yourself to the limit and beyond to achieve your goals.”

Tim Keller, one of my favorite Bible teachers, tweeted earlier this year: “Don’t let success go to your head. Don’t let failure go to your heart.”  The Spartans that lost “The Streak” let their success go to their heads.  Their attitudes revealed their belief that the wins were not only deserved, but also that they were achieved in their own strength.  When we espouse this attitude, God will allow us to be humbled.  James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

More often than I’d like, I find myself being opposed by God because I have chosen to pridefully claim success for myself rather than give him the glory for it.  But even more often, letting failure get to my heart without grasping the grace of the gospel brings me down.  

Danny Ladouceur, the coach’s son and the team’s captain, fumbled the ball to which led to the Spartans’ first loss since the beginning of “The Streak.”  The Spartans had finally lost a game; the town, the team, and the fans were devastated.  Have you ever dropped the ball?  Do you think your failures are too big for God to forgive?

If you go see the movie, which I recommend that you do, you’ll hear Coach Ladouceur explain that perfection is unattainable, but rather to focus on “giving a perfect effort.”  From a Christian perspective, giving a perfect effort at all times is still a tall order that will no doubt involve failure.  Even Paul says in Romans 7 that “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  But whether we are succeeding or failing on our terms, if we have been adopted by God through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus, we are accepted and loved by God the Father as if we were as perfect as Jesus himself.  In the next chapter of Romans Paul proclaims that “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Are you in a winning streak right now?  Or can you not remember the last time you had a good day? Let this statement by Tim Keller both humble and comfort you:

“We are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time.”


James Peel works with us at the Denison Forum doing cultural research for Jim, writing articles for the DFTC website and helping manage the ministry’s online content. I asked him to share his thoughts on the film “When the Game Stands Tall” with you. -Janet Denison

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