I just posted a Draft Day review here at Shepherd Project. I’m posting it here too – partly because I’ve done a lot of links lately and thought it might be better to just read this one here… and also because I found the discussion really challenging on a personal level as I wrote it. The movie was fine… I like it a lot better now that I’m thinking about it and looking for the lessons in it. Anyway, whether you like the movie or not, whether you’ve seen the movie or not, I hope you find the following discussion about following the Lord and letting go of the opinions of man–even when the Lord seems to be taking you on the “tortured” and roundabout path–worth your time,challenging to your soul and fruitful in your walk with Christ.
Be blessed! -Stacey
Draft Day – Movie Discussion
Three first round draft picks to get the guy I could’ve gotten all along.
Well, some times the correct path is the tortured one. – Sonny
It’s draft day, and the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, Sonny, doesn’t have much to work with. Not only that, but he’s under a lot of pressure from everyone around him to do it their way. The owner is threatening to fire Sonny; the coach is threatening to quit; the employees are questioning every move, and players are begging and pleading for their place on the team. It’s been like this before, and in the past he’s had to make decisions to please everyone else, but this time he wants to do it different. This time, just once, Sony wants to see what would happen if he put the team together that HE had in mind. Just once he wants to do what HE thinks is right for the team.
Pete Briscoe, pastor of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Dallas and a dear friend once told me his story. As a young pastor fresh out of seminary and new to Texas, he was surrounded by amazing, godly, successful business men—longstanding elders in the church. These were the men who had been with the church for years, through the three pastors before him. These men loved the church and wanted to see it grow and be successful. They knew the church, knew the Dallas culture, and due to their business success, had a lot of good, practical business sense. So, meaning to help mentor Pete and help him be a success, they passed on their knowledge and ways of doing things, advising him on what worked and what didn’t.
There was a lot of wisdom in their counsel, and no doubt Pete greatly benefitted from it. However, Pete found himself in Sonny’s shoes. He was frustrated and things weren’t really going well. They weren’t bad exactly, but they weren’t flourishing. More importantly, Pete wasn’t flourishing. He was burned out and ready to quit. His wife said that if he decided to leave, she’d be behind him, but what a shame it would be to quit without ever once doing it the way HE thought it should be done. She was right—Pete had done it everyone else’s way, but he hadn’t really ever done it the way HE thought it should be done—not church, not his schedule, not the job or his life, any of it. So he took some time to pray and ask God about it. He restructured things, and made some radical changes, making his relationship with God a bigger priority and the perfection of the sermon a smaller one—trusting the Holy Spirit more for the outcome and his own abilities less.
For Sonny, it was a crazy journey. He gave up the next three years of first round draft picks to get the number one pick this year. Then he decided not to pick the number one guy, but to take the guy they could have gotten with their original draft pick, without giving up three years of number one choices. It seemed like a HUGE and ridiculously frivolous loss— but it changed things. Other teams began to wonder what Sonny knew, and they too passed on the number one pick, the Heisman winner. Sonny made some more trades, and in the end, he ended up getting back his three years of first round draft picks, and picking up a few other top notch players in positions their team really needed. It was all a bit stunning, actually. One announcer said, “He turned nothing into a great big something.”
For Pete, it was revitalizing and equally stunning. That first Sunday, the Sunday after he made some changes and decided to try things the way he felt God was telling him to do them, that was best Sunday in his teaching career. His sermon wasn’t ready –not according to his previous standards of perfection—but his soul was ready and the Holy Spirit filled in the gaps. He connected with the congregation in a way he never had before. He from being burnt out and ready to quit to flourishing and excited and committed. It was transformational for Pete and for the church.
Both Sonny and Pete had humbled themselves before their elders. They had been willing to listen to the opinion of others, to serve their interests, to listen to their counsel. Those are good things. The danger in applauding their willingness to put aside pleasing others and follow their instincts and convictions is that it can lead to selfishness if misunderstood or misapplied. If either had been living selfishly, for their own desires, and/or egotistically only listening to their own advice and thinking their ways were always the best ways, there would be nothing noble or honorable in what they did. It’s good to be humble and to listen to others. There is wisdom in that, but there also comes a time to follow your convictions, even when they are contrary to popular opinion.
For us as believers, the real issue comes down to humbling ourselves before God and following His voice, alone. We set aside the need to please our fellow man and live solely before the Lord, before an audience of One. Doing this puts all the other relationships in their proper place. He will tell us when to serve someone else, when to listen to someone else’s opinion, etc. He will also tell us when to do something radically different, and disregard what everyone else thinks about it.
The Bible is full of examples of people who, because of God’s leading, decided to do something completely risky and contrary to public opinion and common wisdom. Those are the stories that were remarkable enough to write down in the Bible: David and Goliath, the Israelites marching around Jericho, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Esther risking her life before the King, Ruth following her mother in law into a foreign land, Daniel and his buddies changing their diet to honor God, Jesus leaving the crowds to get alone with His Father, Jesus not defending Himself to save His life, Jesus going into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days, well—the whole life of Jesus, really—because HE lived only to do the will of His Father. Jesus is the perfect example of what it is to live solely before the Father. He didn’t have any need to please man. He never got trapped trying to make everyone happy. He went so far as to tell us that we needed to “hate” our mothers and fathers, not because he advocates hating, but because he wanted to set us free from trying to please and follow anyone but the Father.
Sonny wasn’t following God, I realize that. But when he finally did what he knew was right, when he finally did his job the way he felt it should be done and the way he felt he was gifted to do it—then everything finally started falling into place. His job had been on the line and in years past the team has struggled. Finally, he was respected and admired for the job he did; the team had a solid lineup of talent that it hadn’t had before…and even his love life fell into place. Once he became who he was supposed to be, everything improved.
I think Pete would tell you much the same thing. Once he began to do things the way he felt God was leading, forsaking all others, his preaching improved, the church grew, he was better and more confident in other areas of his job (not just preaching), his health improved, his marriage improved… EVERY thing fell into place. Once he became who God intended Him to be, and did ministry the way God designed him to do it, everything improved.
I can’t help but think about the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. There was a direct route, but God took them another way. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but God had a plan for it and reasons for it. Sonny said “Some times the correct path is the tortured one.” He went the long way around, gave up three first round draft picks to get the guy he could have gotten in the first place. It seemed like a flat loss—but it wasn’t. It was the right path. It was roundabout, but in the journey around, he changed things and he gained things, so that when he arrived to that place he could have reached straight away the easy way, it was an entirely different world. It may have looked the same at first glance, but nothing was the same. Part of what was different was Sonny—because this Sonny had gained the confidence to make his own decisions and take risks.
When the Israelites ended up in the Promised Land, it seemed like they had lost forty years trying to get to the place they could have reached in just ten days. It wasn’t a flat loss, though. In those forty years taking the roundabout path, things had changed and the Israelites had gained. They had gained understanding and wisdom and faith and confidence in God, and they had also lost some of the negative things that were holding them back and slowing them down. When they did finally reach the Promised Land, they were ready for it. And when they entered, everything improved.
The correct path can be hard to see. When I lived in Texas you could pretty much expect that the right path from point A to point B was a straight line (or lines—straight up and straight over if you were driving.) In Colorado, however, in the mountains, the correct path from point A to point B is rarely ever straight. Straight gets you to a precarious position or an impasse altogether. You usually have to go around and behind and take the long, unexpected journey that seems to take you far away from point B if you ever hope to actually reach point B. This is how life with the Lord is. It doesn’t make sense, but He has His reasons and they are always for your good and His glory. You just have to humble yourself before the all-wise and all-knowing and all—powerful King of Kings and, forsaking all others, listen only to Him.
Questions for Discussion:
- In your life and in your job, have you ever felt like Sonny (or Pete) and felt like you had never done your job your way because you were always doing it the way everyone else said it should be done? If so, what did you do about it?
- Have you ever felt like God was asking you to do something that seemed crazy and / or contrary to public opinion and/or conventional wisdom? What was it? What did you do? What was the result?
- When has the “correct path” been the “tortured path” in your life?
- How transformational was it when Sonny finally did what he thought was right? Who all was affected by Sonny’s decisions and how?
- In your life have you found that the route between point A and point B is most often direct or indirect?
- How would your life change if you lived only to please the Lord? And did only what you felt He was leading you to do? What would change first?