In this summer series, we examine spiritual truths brought to life by great movies. Today’s film was one of Pastor Marcus’ favorites, We Are Marshall. Concurrently, we will visit a Bible passage from the book of Acts and discover how the apostles Paul and Silas persevered through hardships. What can we learn from these powerful stories of perseverance?
We Are Marshall
In 1970, the Thundering Herd football team from Marshall, a small West Virginia University, were returning home following a defeat by East Carolina University. But as they were returning to their hometown of Huntington, the team’s plane crashed, killing all 75 people on board. Understandably, this plane crash is utterly devastating to the team, the university, and the entire town, but they don’t give up. The tragedy unites all those affected to overcome against all odds.
After the plane crash, the team has only three varsity team members remaining, so coach Jack is faced with the questions of if and how the team can possibly continue with their season. After convincing the president, the players, and the town to not give up their football program entirely, the Thundering Herd end up winning their very first home game of the season.
In Acts 16, the apostles Paul and Silas are in the town of Philippi traveling on their way to pray when a demon-possessed slave girl interrupts them and attempts to thwart their ministry, “bothering them for many days“ (Acts 16:18a).
Finally tiring of the disruptions, Paul casts the demon spirit out of the girl. The owner of this slave girl becomes very upset and eventually, Silas and Paul are taken to the magistrate, where they are stripped, flogged, and eventually imprisoned. So in the course of doing God’s good work, these apostles find themselves in an overwhelmingly difficult spot where they must persevere.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. Acts 16:18b-19
As you walk with Christ and attempt to follow His will for your life, your spiritual enemy will oppose you and try to thwart your efforts, just as he did to Paul and Silas. You will face trials, temptations, and tests that are aimed to discourage you from abandoning the calling of God. How will you respond?
Despite all of the misery that befalls Paul and Silas, they amazingly avoid the grumbling and complaining - which is the reaction that naturally would befall most of us! Instead, they begin to praise and worship the Lord.
1. Perseverance humbles us.
Why is it good to be humble, when it seems so contrary to our cultural values? Humility allows us to find grace in God’s eyes.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b
Humility feels uncomfortable to us, but it is a good place to be because it requires us to see that we are not completely self-sufficient and that we need to rely on God.
Look what happens in the midst of the apostles’ humble acts:
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. Acts 16:25-26
2. Our perseverance helps others.
Seeing the commotion and the release of all the prisoners, the jailer on duty knows that he will be held responsible, so he draws his sword with the intention of ending his own life. But Paul intervenes:
But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. Acts 16:28-34
Because Paul and Silas did not give up, this jailer who did not know God and was ready to take his own life is suddenly filled with new hope and an opportunity for salvation. If that isn’t enough, then the man’s entire household is saved and baptized!
After the plane crash of the Thundering Herd, Marshall University and the town of Huntington could have given up and closed the chapter on their entire football program. They could have allowed a dark cloud to hover over them and become their legacy of sorrow. But instead, they banded together and decided to persevere, bringing redemption and hope to the hearts of the team, the university, the town, and all who encountered them.
3. Perseverance honors God.
It would have been very easy and even understandable for the Marshall team and the town of Huntington to quit. But although it took a lot of time, passion, and focus to rebuild, eventually they became a national championship team that rose from the ashes.
Paul and Silas persevered and God was glorified as a result. At one of their lowest moments, their humility before the Lord was used to save the souls of the jailer and his family.
As Paul’s ministry continued, he had every reason to give up. He was beaten, stripped, flogged, attacked, shipwrecked, incarcerated - you name it! But he persevered for Christ and eventually became the author of 13 books in the New Testament. Imagine the millions of people throughout history whose lives have been transformed because of Paul’s perseverance. Imagine, too, how much darker the world would be if Paul had given up.
God wants to be honored in the same way through your life through financial, relational, health-related, or whatever other hardships you may have. Your adversary, the devil, wants you to give up. He does not want you to persevere, to help others, or to honor God. But you have a choice - rather than grumbling and complaining or wallowing in the difficulties in your life, you can humble yourself, praise God, and persevere.
How might God use your perseverance to encourage or affect others in your sphere of influence?
What beautiful plans might God have for your life, your journey, and your story in the context of His glorious master plan for the world?
Are you discouraged? Are you close to giving up? Have you already given up? It’s not too late to grab hold of the opportunity before you to claim victory and redemption in the name of Christ. Don’t give up - God sees you and He is able!
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9