Hard Hitting Faith in the NFL
Main Point: All Christians are called to humility and service, regardless of our position in life.
Discussion Starter: The Faith of Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu is one of the best known players in the NFL. It’s got a lot to do with his stunning stats; he’s held many defensive position records throughout his career. But it’s also got a lot to do with his hair, too! Also, his #43 jersey has been the top selling jersey in the nation. In short, almost everyone recognizes this NFL juggernaut as the long-haired, hard-hitting defensive player of “Steeler Nation.”
But what many might not know is how passionate he is about his faith. While shocking to watch on the field, Polamalu is quite reserved and soft-spoken in his regular life. Interviews are rare, but when they happen, he always weaves his faith in God into the conversation. Polamalu is a Greek Orthodox Christian (somewhat similar to Catholics), as is his wife. Their two sons are even named after Greek saints.
This interview with CBN was just before Super Bowl XLIII, when the Steelers won their record-setting 6th Super Bowl championship.
Introducing the Clip:
Troy Polamalu is one of the best known players in the NFL. His trademarks are hard hits and long, kinky hair. After playing football in high school and college (USC), he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003. He’s one of the highest paid defensive players in the nation, and has signed contracts worth many millions of dollars, both with his team and his sponsors. His team, the Steelers, has more Super Bowl championships than other team. But Polamalu is also a man of great faith in God. I want you to listen to an interview he did on the brink of Super Bowl XLIII, where they won their record-setting 6th championship.
The YouTube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBvlpThdUpg
When I first saw that clip, I was struck by how important humility and service were to Troy. I mean, so many high-profile athletes are much more interested in being the biggest name in the game, or having others meet their every demand…or both. But for Polamalu, his faith in God encourages him to serve others, even though he’s one of the most famous players in the NFL. That’s an incredible testimony, and one that we should strive to have for ourselves. Let’s spend a few minutes looking more in-depth at what he said, and God’s Word, to see if we can become more servant-minded and humble.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and our favorite football team.
- ASK A FEW: Did you know that Troy Polamalu was a Christian? Do you know any other NFL players who are Christian?
- ASK A FEW: In the clip, Troy said that he served his wife, coaches, teammates, and God. Does his attitude surprise you? If so, why?
- ASK A FEW: Troy talked a little bit about pride in the clip. Do you agree with what he said, that pride is really not a good thing? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: Finally, Troy talked about temptation being very subtle, that the devil used lots of little temptations instead of one big one. Has that been your experience, or not?
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think Troy tries to humbly serve others and avoid sin in his life? What do you think motivates him to do this?
- ASK A FEW: How easy would it be for Troy to expect others to serve him, since he’s a celebrity athlete? Why?
- ASK A FEW: In your relationship with God, how good are you at humbly serving others and avoiding sin?
Read the following passage:
James 1:16-27 (NIV)
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it– he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I don’t know about you, but it really gets me amped up to know that somebody like Troy Polamalu is living out the Christian faith on such a huge platform like the NFL. There are several thousand NFL players in the game, and most of them want to be served and to be the greatest. Polamalu turns that idea on its head and says, for him, life is about humbly serving others. What a great representation of Christ’s teachings!
In that passage from James, we are told that we must guard our tongue, take care of others, refrain from sin, focus on the Word of God, and several other things that are not easy to do. But if we want to please God, like James says, this is how we must live our lives.
As we wrap up our time together, I want to ask you to think about a couple questions. The first one is this: Who can I humbly serve this week? It’s a fairly simple question to answer…but it might be a fairly difficult answer to live out. Nevertheless I want you to think of that person right now. In our own way, let’s quietly ask God for a way to serve that person this week. Let’s ask Him to provide an avenue so we can serve them in His Name.
(Pause for prayer time as necessary.)
My second question is this: What sort of temptation do you need to turn your back on? Both Polamalu and James talked about avoiding sin. What sin are you facing? What is it that is constantly rearing its ugly head in your life? What is it that is gaining victory over you? I also want us to spend another few moments in prayer asking God to help us combat that temptation and sin.
(Pause for prayer time as necessary.)
It will not be easy to live this week for God, mainly because it NEVER is easy to live our lives for God. But, with His help, we’ll be able to offer him our lives like Troy Polamalu is doing.
Now, let me pray for you as we leave.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.