When the Game Stands Tall
Main Point: It’s easy to doubt God and His goodness when we are suffering. But during those times, we must remind ourselves that God cares for us deeply even if we can’t see His hand at work.
The Movie Clip:
When the Game Stands Tall was a great film released in 2014 that chronicled De La Salle High School in Concord, CA, the nationally renowned high school football team that won a record-setting 151 consecutive games from 1992 to 2003. It starred Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) and Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) as Coach Ladouceur and his wife, respectively.
The movie focuses on the lives of the players and the challenges they face on the field after losing their first game in over a decade as well as the challenges they face in real life. In fact, the subject of this clip is one of the off-field challenges, and a grim one at that.
The movie was rated PG by the MPAA and contains nothing of questionable content.
Introducing the Video Clip:
I want to show you a quick scene from a movie entitled When the Game Stands Tall, a dramatic documentary about a real-life high school football team in Northern California who went undefeated in 151 straight games. Those guys and their coaches were the stuff of legend! But to win that many games means you have to face some tough obstacles on the field, and that’s not even counting the obstacles OFF the field! In this clip, Coach Ladouceur, AKA “Coach Lad,” goes to visit one of his former players, Cameron Colvin who goes by Cam. He finds that Cam’s mom isn’t doing well, and is, in fact, dying. Cam is broken up by the news and outlines to his former coach all of the troubles he’s facing in life. Listen to what he has to say about God and what his loving coach reminds him of.
BEGIN CLIP AT 0 HOURS 19 MINUTES AND 37 SECONDS
(The clip shows the visit Coach Lad pays to Cam’s house to check up on him. Cam was one of Coach Lad’s players, and the young man was struggling with all the setbacks in his life. The clip is full of dialogue and too long to record here. The scenes also shift from the parking lot of Cam’s building, to a discussion with Cam’s little brother, to the room in which Cam’s mom lay dying, to a room where Coach Lad talks with Cam. The key dialogue takes place between Coach Lad and Cam.)
END CLIP AT 0 HOURS 22 MINUTES AND 18 SECONDS
Some of us have been in Cam’s cleats haven’t we? Some of us are in them now. The rest of you will be there one day, it’s a guarantee from the Universe. So how do you handle those trying times in life? Are you like Cam and you begin to have doubts about God and His goodness? Are you a little stronger than Him, maybe? Perhaps you are weaker? During our time together, I want us to look at another story – this one from the Bible – about a very trying time in life to see what we can learn from those who have doubted and suffered and questioned before us. In the end, what I hope you’ll see is that God is caring for us and loves us even when we can’t see Him or His actions.
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 which football team is our favorite.
- ASK A FEW: What were some of the reasons why Cam was doubting God in the clip?
- ASK A FEW: What did Cam begin to think about God or believe about God as a result of those struggles?
- ASK A FEW: What would you have thought about God in that situation?
- ASK A FEW: The most frequent time we doubt God’s existence and His goodness is when we suffer or face setbacks in life. Why is that? Why do we do that then?
- ASK A FEW: How do you think God feels about YOU during the times you suffer or feel alone or scared? How do you know?
Read the following passage:
John 11:1-15 (NIV)
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. 7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Read the following passage:
Context: We’re skipping a little bit of the story to save time, but just know in verses 16-37, Jesus and His disciples eventually go to Bethany where Lazarus and his sisters lived. Jesus met with each of the sisters Mary and Martha one on one, and in His discussion with them, declares Himself to be “the resurrection and the life.” That’s a monumental claim; let’s see how Jesus backs it up.
John 11:38-45 (NIV)
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
In the clip we saw from When the Game Stands Tall, it was easy for some of us to understand why Cam was struggling with his belief in God. His mother was dying, his family was being broken apart, and he felt all alone. It must have been a very trying time for him! Consequently, he called into question all he’d been taught about God.
Coach Lad tried to encourage him, but the questions remained. Where was God? What was He up to? Why didn’t He do something to change the events in Cam’s life? And why was all this happening to him?
Those same questions were probably on the minds and hearts of Mary and Martha when they lost their brother Lazarus. The two sisters had asked Jesus to come and heal their brother. He didn’t. Lazarus died and Jesus stayed put where He was. The sisters must have felt betrayed and abandoned.
But we’re told on multiple occasions in this story that Jesus loved that family and considered them His friends. We’re also told that Jesus had the power to change their situation and He used that power to bring glory to His Father by raising Lazarus from the dead.
That’s what I want you guys to remember when you face tough times: you’re never alone, God loves you, and He’s working on your behalf…even if you don’t see His hand at work.
Listen, life can be difficult at times. We face obstacles, people hurt us, and we get knocked down. But we’re NEVER out of the sight of God, nor are we out of the confines of His love. He has called us “friends” and He is working on our behalf even if we may not see it. Think about it like this: why would Jesus die on the cross for you just to leave you alone and let you waste away in misery and isolation? He wouldn’t! He’s already paid the most extravagant price for you; He will never leave you!
I hope those words are encouraging to you. I hope you believe them because they are true. We’re going to close in prayer in a moment, but before we do, let me invite anyone here who’s facing a tough time to come and speak with myself or one of our adult leaders afterwards. If you’re facing a really tough time with school, parents, friends, a mistake in your past, or anything else, we’d love to talk with you about where God is in your life. Because even if you don’t see Him, He’s there.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; 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.