This week, Faithwire received an email from someone who had saved an article of mine from this time last year. The piece was titled “Glory to God”: Faith of Philadelphia Eagles on Display After Huge Super Bowl Victory, and it highlighted many of the gestures of faith displayed by the Eagles players and coaching staff following their stunning Super Bowl win.
This reader, however, took a bit of an issue with some of the content of the piece. So, ahead of Super Bowl LIII, and in light of the Eagles’ notable absence from the proceedings, I thought I’d respond to a few of the reader’s questions and assertions.
“This year the Eagles are not going to win the Super Bowl,” the person noted in the email. “They’re not even going to participate in a smaller conference championship game because they’d been eliminated.”
You are absolutely right — there will be no glittering end for the Eagles, no “Philly Special” to send the crowds into a frenzy, nor any faith-filled victory speeches to put the icing on the cake (although with players like Brandin Cooks and Sony Michel there’s still a good chance). But the question is: will that affect the faith of Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz and the rest of the players who trust in Jesus?
I wouldn’t bet on it.
See, the whole point of this article was to highlight the unfailing faith these of players, no matter the circumstance. This is, perhaps, best illustrated through the plight of Carson Wentz — Philly’s star quarterback who was, heartbreakingly, relegated to the bench due to injury. Wentz consistently encouraged his replacement, Nick Foles, despite missing arguably the biggest few games of his career.
In last year’s article, I highlighted the amazing attitude displayed by Wentz prior to the big game:
“Eagles star quarterback Carson Wentz, who was downed with injury a few months ago, said he could not be happier for his star man replacement, Nick Foles.
‘I’m stoked for Nick,’ Wentz told reporters.”
Then, immediately following the game, Wentz posted this:
“God is so good!!!! World Champions!!!! So proud of this team!!!! Told y’all my boy Nick Foles was gonna shine tonight! Well deserved my bro!”
That takes guts and grace.
“The article credits God for the Eagles victory because of the deep faith its coach and star players have. What would Mr. Maule’s explanation for Eagles defeat this year even with the same coach and mostly same players? This is a serious question from a non-Christian person. Would God be even involved in a people’s game like football?”
That is indeed a valid question. Reading back on the piece, however, I don’t think there was ever an assertion made that God orchestrated the victory as a result of the players’ faith. The emphasis was instead focused in on the players’ response to the shocking victory. Personally, I love sports, but do I believe that God is intricately interested and involved in who wins or loses a football game? Not really. My reading of the Bible and my fundamental understanding of the Christian faith bends more towards this conclusion:
God always looks at the state of our hearts, in the good times and the bad.
In addition, my understanding of the Bible is this:
Both good and bad times will come, whether you like it or not (John 16:33). But it is how you respond to these circumstances, and indeed whether or not you are willing and able to apply your faith, that really matters.
This was, and still is, the most compelling aspect of the Philadelphia Eagles — their ability to adopt a posture of praise regardless of whether or not they are Super Bowl champions.
The Eagles’ inclusive team spirit, unshakeable brotherhood and the staggering humility displayed by their star players is also evidence of the Holy Spirit working in them. Instead of seeking to attract glory for themselves, they choose to serve and support each other, all the while giving God the praise in their successes (and failures).
Indeed, Nick Foles himself has been candid about his long list of failures and shortcomings experienced throughout his career.
Sharing with You Version’s Bible app devotional back in 2017, Foles spoke for the first time about how close he got to hanging up his jersey for good. That’s right: a future Super Bowl MVP almost quit the game for good.
“A lot of people don’t know this — I’m going to share this right now, because I think it’s important. After my time with a certain NFL team, I wanted to retire,” the quarterback explained. “This was a year ago. I wanted to retire from the NFL, and I really struggled. I couldn’t pick up a football for about eight months. I had no love for the game, and it was tough.”
Foles then revealed that it was a powerful time of prayer and connection to the Lord that brought him back from the brink of retirement.
“I kept reading scripture, I kept praying, I kept asking God — and so many of us ask God for signs. We ask God, ‘Hey, please just put it on the wall, like, I want to know,’ but that’s not how it works,” he said.
“He’s not always going to do that. He was shaping me. He was bringing me down to my knees … At that moment, through that prayer, He said, ‘Hey, just take a step of faith. You’re either going to stop playing the game of football and you’re going to go onto a different area of your life and I’m going to be with you, I’m going to be the most important thing in your life, or you’re going to step back into football and you’re going to continue to play and I’m going to be with you every step of the way and you’re going to play to glorify me.”
Foles shared from 2 Corinthians 12:9, detailing how that helped him in his decision to return to the NFL.
The verse reads:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The point here is that, while God might not be actively involved in the game of football, he is intimately involved in every aspect of each of our lives — win or lose. This is what appears to matter most to many of the Philadelphia Eagles players and staff — and for this, I think they should be greatly admired.