‘…so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.’ (1 Kings 8:60)
After watching the movie Woodlawn for the second time, I began to take great interest in the whole premise and historical context of this true story about overcoming great odds with even greater faith.
Described as a ‘quiet, reluctant hero,’ Tony Nathan is the subject of this film that takes place in the recovering community of Birmingham, AL in the early 1970s.
In a capturing scene, Tony Nathan and Coach Tandy Gerelds exchange words right before a key play.
“What do you feel but you can’t say,” questioned Coach Tandy. “What do you want to say to all these people?”
Up until this point, the city of Birmingham, AL had endured a series of hate crimes, racially motivated violence, and extreme division.
Football had become a sort of unifying beacon of hope for the city and the school; a platform on which Tony Nathan found himself amidst great opposition.
“You say it when you run Tony,” Coach Tandy continued. “You say it when you run.”
As this line lingered in my thoughts, it made me realize that the strongest convictions or messages that we want to get across to others are often spoken not through words or dramatic speeches, but through actions, integrity, hard work and humility.
In a culture where he had no platform, no opportunity to speak, and even threats against him if he did, Tony Nathan took the only platform he could and he ‘ran’ with it.
In that community, in that school, in that racially turbulent society he was in, he spoke loudest when he ran.
So he ran.
What message have you been given to share?
What do you want to say?
In a world of so many cheap, empty words, misused words, and redefined words, it is no longer an option (nor was it ever an option) to rely on words alone to speak truth into lies and light into darkness.
Max Lucado once said that it is the contagiously calm person who reminds others, “God is in control.”
The contagiously calm person or the quiet, reluctant hero doesn’t have to speak to be heard. They don’t have to say or preach or convince others that God is in control or that there is a grander purpose outside of themselves for which they’re living because that truth is spoken more loudly in their life rather than in their words.
We speak the loudest when we do; when we react with Gospel truth, because when we do in the name of Jesus, we disrupt, and when we disrupt, we are faced with opposition.
Much of Jesus’ life, and even the reality of the cross is found amongst great opposition.
Christ was faced not only with the opposition of man, but the opposition of evil. He was faced with great opposition, great hindrance, and the greatest thief of all hope and life.
But He overcame.
It was in the greatest opposition that the power, the unrelenting love, and the greatness of God became known and it is in our greatest opposition that we have the greatest opportunity to demonstrate that that same power, that same unrelenting love, and that same great God lives today, moves today, and acts today.
Just as Jesus gained the attention of the crowds by his miracles, so too did he gain the attention of those who would later oppress him.
Just as Tony Nathan gained the attention of the fans by his running, so too did he gain the attention of those filled with ignorant hatred.
And when you begin to humbly live in a way that undeniably demonstrates the radical truths of God’s glory, you will be noticed by many, but you will also gain the attention of the enemy – and he will fight.
However, we know that if God is indeed for us, no one can stand against us.
Unfortunately, I think we often like the way that verse sounds but then go about standing up against opposition in our own strength; in our own name and for our own glory.
That’s not the point, and Tony Nathan was one of the few that understood that.
The point is that when we are faced with opposition; when we are faced with great resistance and conflict and we keep our faith; when we keep our character and our integrity and witness firsthand the resiliency and endurance of Christ in us, it is then that all will know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.