NOTE: this has nothing to do with my D. Min., but everything to do with my love for the Eagles!
Foles, Nick with Joshua Cooley. Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2018.
What I appreciate about Nick Foles’ Believe It is that Nick Foles is not about Nick Foles. He lives, he plays, and even in this book, writes for the glory of God.
As a pastor in S. Philly and a big Eagles fan, the past year has been a whirlwind of a season. A few games before the super bowl I told a friend that what impressed me most about the team is this: it’s not their winning record but their team unity. There are a lot of godly men in on that team and it makes a difference. They could be the worst team in the league and still be impressive because of their team unity and their shared understanding that life is more than football.
But I certainly am not complaining that they won. What a game! Best Super Bowl I have ever watched. Sure I’m biased, but that was just a great all around football game. If I’m honest I still go back and watch some highlights at least once a month and here we are almost to August! It doesn’t get old.
Foles doesn’t shy away from struggles. His battle with pride and envy. His struggle with his wife’s health. Surprisingly but refreshingly he even talks about how his wife and he lived together before they were married and how they were called out on it by a friend (55). He admits that he was wrong and immediately did the right thing and got married. That’s a very counter culture message. It’s a message I appreciate.
He also talks about the challenges of the business side of football. He writes, “Once I began achieving a certain level of success, football started to become less of a game and more of a business. I was becoming less of an individual and more of a commodity, a cog in a machine” (73). This is when he began loosing his love for the game.
He stepped away “into the wilderness” after he was released from the Rams. This is when he gained clarity about life in relationship to football. “Being out in the big, beautiful world God made reminded me that there’s more to life than football” (82).
He talks about how he needed to learn to separate Nick Foles the person from Nick Foles the football player. “There’s so much more to a person than how far they can throw or how hard they can hit… It took the nightmare of the 2015 season to remind me that my identity is in Christ, not in what I do on a football field” (86). Ultimately, Foles was able to confess, “I’m not just a football player. I’m a child of God who happens to be called to play football, using the gifts and abilities he has blessed me with. And that’s a huge distinction” (87).
Grasping this identity in Christ allowed him to fall in love with football again. He realized that fulfillment doesn’t come from career status, or stats, but in being found in Christ. He humbly came back as a backup in Philly and well, the rest is history…
There’s numerous great stories within these easy to read pages. I watched it all unfold on the screen, but Foles gives us the background, fly on the wall information. Like the time right after Carson Wentz was injured and as he was out incognito at a S. Jersey restaurant he overhead people talking about how the season was done. And then a few weeks latter, while in Philly, they were quietly eating. As they left, the entire restaurant stood up to cheer him on. There are a lot of great little moments like that. One of my favorites is his story from his first stint in Philly when he interacted with some workers when he truck was towed. It sums up Philly perfectly! That’ll be $350.
He also briefly talks about how he is the only quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl, become the Super Bowl MVP and then go back to being a backup. He writes, “My unique path from backup to Super Bowl MVP to backup again is a powerful message to share with people, and God has given me an ideal platform to do that from. To cheerfully return to a backup role after reaching the pinnacle of the sport contradicts everything the world tells us about success, fame, money, and self-worth. To me, it’s a tangible reminder that we are called to humility and to a life of service” (216). He proceeds to quote Rom. 12:3, but his actions also remind me of John the Baptist who said of Jesus: “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).
If I could level one complaint I would have liked a clearer presentation of God’s holiness and humanity’s sin. Then the gospel would make more sense. The book inadvertently left the subtle impression that God saves us from our failures. While that is true, salvation is so much more.
We are under the wrath of God because our sinfulness offends God’s holiness. Christ bore our sin and endured the wrath of God in our place. We deserved what Christ received. He bore our penalty. He satisfied God’s wrath and justice. He died in our place. Now we are freely justified. We are right in God’s eyes. All of this flows from the shed blood of Christ.
I wish that was clearer, but otherwise I was thankful that throughout the book Foles doesn’t shy away from presenting Christ. I also appreciate how he focused often on finding his identity in Christ. He ends the books with talking about his identity in Christ. That is what defines him. It’s not the media, it’s not being a Super Bowl MVP, it’s being in Christ. And that makes all the difference.
He writes, “So, who am I? I am a football player… but that only begins to describe me. I am a quarterback… but my true identity is found in Christ. I am able to win big games… but all glory goes to God. I am a Super Bowl MVP… but my worth doesn’t come from trophies or awards. I am weak and prone to failure… but my Savior covers me in his perfection. I am Nick Foles, a follower of Christ… who just happens to play football at the moment” (233-234).
The Faith Playbook is also worth checking out as it interviews more of the team as they talk about their faith in Christ and how that impacts who they are as people.
I am hopeful for 2018 but at the same time as Foles reminds us: it’s not ultimately about football but living for the glory of God.