For those who haven’t heard, Facing the Giants is a Christian film that has done exceptionally well in a limited release. The movie tells the story of a Christian High School football coach, who after six losing seasons is at the end of his rope; his finances are in a mess, and he and his wife are struggling with infertility.
It’s an inspirational story of a team and a man turning around. It’s a movie with an inspiring message that challenges Christians to face their own giants.
What does this have to do with Christian Speculative Fiction? I think the movie and its production can provide guidance to us.
The story behind the movie is amazing in that you consider that it was shot on a $100,000 budget, using one camera, and starring members of the Actor/Producer/Writer Alex Kendrick’s church. Yet somehow, it’s ended up in 400 + theaters across America and has already grossed nearly 30 times its budget. The movie itself was a departure from the End Times movies of more recent years. Does this movie have something to say to us? You bet.
1) Our Purpose
The movie asks a powerful question. Kendrick’s character Coach Grant Taylor asks his team what their purpose. When a player responds that the goal is to win football game, the coach responds that’s too small a purpose. He proposed that the team’s new philosophy will be honor God in all they do: on the field and off, saying, “If we win, we praise him; if we lose, we praise him.”
If our purpose is to be published or even to make money writing, we’ve missed the point. A lot of people have written books and made millions, only to be forgotten. As a poet once wrote, “Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last.”
If our purpose is first to honor God with our writing and everything else we do, regardless of happens, we won’t fail.
2) Our Faith
The failure of Coach Taylor’s team, like that many real life high school teams, was not due to a lack of talent, but an attitude of defeat. I’ve had those job interviews where I went in sure I wouldn’t get the job and sure enough, I didn’t get it.
When you go out mentally defeated and focused on how bad you see the results being, your prophecies of failure are almost certain to be fulfilled.
Coach Taylor got his team’s focus off of the teams they were playing, off of their fear and inadequacy, and on glorifying God. God doesn’t ask that we always have great success, but rather on giving God our best.
Colossians 3:23, 24 says:
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men, knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
It’s not talking about church work. It’s talking about everything in our lives.
Why are so many pieces of Christian Fiction of low quality? We’ve all read books and wondered, how were these ever published? Some get published because an author knows that they can get away with it in the Christian market. We should never try and get by in our writing, but rather do this as unto God.
3) Leave It All on the Field
In the final game, Coach Grant encourages his team to play so that they can say years later that they held nothing back. Facing a team with more than 80 players and them having less than 30, players would have to squeeze every ounce of energy to hope of succeeding. In giving their all for God, they fought beyond what they thought was possible.
Related to the idea of doing things unto God is to hold nothing back in your writing. Think of the best way to set the scene, the best way for the plot to go. Pour yourself into your writing so that at the end of the day, whether you’re published or not, you can say you held nothing back. You made your best effort.
I think of my own writing and the movie challenged me on this point. I have a novel that I’ve been working on for four years and as best I can tell, it’s done. I’ve cut 14,000 words. I’ve re-written half the story out of first person and into third person, but I still haven’t submitted. Why not?
I could make a bunch of excuses, but the truth is that I’ve been afraid. Afraid that after all I’d done, it still wasn’t good enough. Afraid of the piece I’ve worked the hardest on being rejected. Yet, I too have got to leave everything on the field. I too have to face my giant. So, God helping me, I’m going to get this novel submitted by the 1st of December and if it’s accepted, I’ll praise him, and if it’s rejected, I’ll praise him.
Watching the closing credits of Facing the Giants, I was stunned by the sheer number of people credited, nearly all volunteers. What had happened? Hundreds of people came together from across the church and the community to make the movie happen.
Too often, we have the image of the writer as the iconoclastic loner. Yet, the best things come from community of some sort and the success of our work will depends on friends, family, church members, our fellow writers, in short community.
It’s a biblical thing. The church is described as a “body.” A body is not a hand jiggling in the air proclaiming it’s a wonderful hand, but rather the hand doing it’s part as a member of the body. So, thus in our efforts we must pray for God to move His Church and fellow believers to support and encourage us.
5) Follow the Vision God has given you.
Kendrick, when he filmed the movie, faced skepticism from industry professionals. You don’t film movies using one camera, amateur actors, amateur crew, and end up with a movie that ends up in theaters. You don’t even sell many DVDs that way.
Yet, Kendrick practiced what he preached about doing his absolute best and a dedication for excellence, and the result was success because he kept firm with the vision God had given Him.
Oftentimes, the idea of biblical Speculative fiction will earn a sharp rebuke. Authors will be told it can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. Yet, if you can make a movie that touches the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people, and you can make a movie that in the face of the heartbreak in Lancaster is requested by community leaders in a time of citywide grief, then what can we say for mocking and discouragement?
Nehemiah, when he rebuilt the Walls of Jerusalem, faced opposition. First, they mocked them, then they threatened violence. When at last, the work looked to be prevailing, they called for Nehemiah to leave the work he’d begun and come to the Valley of Ono. Nehemiah responded, “I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
So, we too, like modern day Nehemiahs, must keep at our work. Despite attempts to mock, ridicule, or intimidate, we have to keep our focus and our faith. We all have our giants to face, but if we are faithful and put our faith in the Lord, He will guide our steps and lead our efforts in the paths we must follow.