It was an amazing story, and despite legal threats from an atheist group, students at East Coweta High School in Coweta County, Georgia have taken ownership of their faith in a big way.
At the end of October, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter of complaint to the Coweta school district that its high school football head coach, John Small, was leading a team prayer before games and demanded that this stop.
FFRF argued that this violated the constitution of separation of church and state and they included an image of Small standing with his head bowed during a team prayer.
In response, the Coweta school division sent a letter to all staff that they were no longer to take part in any prayer or worship while working in an “official capacity” with the school.
It was expected that the team’s prayer sessions would come to an end. However, instead something incredible happened. The players took the initiative to pray before the game and instead of 100 players gathering to pray as typically happened over 400 prayed before the game.
In an interview with the Christian Post, coach Small said:
“I think what happened with this organization [FFRF], whatever there intent was, you tell teenagers you can’t do something, surely they are going to do it. It has turned into a positive because at the end of the day, we are trying to teach students about leadership and they should be the ones taking the charge on it anyway.”
Teens taking ownership of their faith. The positive benefits are incredible.
Many of us are familiar with the passage in Romans:
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASV)
The Greek word for “work together” is “synergei” and means to work together collaboratively. We see the same Greek word being used in the Gospels where the Holy Spirit powerfully “worked together” with the disciples by providing miracles to confirm the gospel message:
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. (Mark 16:20 NASV)
The Greek word “synergie’ is where we get our English word synergy from which means:
“the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
So Paul is telling us in Romans that the Holy Spirit works together with us and the negative situation to bring good out of it. The beneficial result will outweigh the situation that sparked it.
However, there is one conditional and necessary ingredient — a person who “loves God.” In other words, if we allow anger, bitterness or unforgiveness to infect our heart because of what happened, it spoils the recipe.
It is not that we won’t struggle, but in the end we must believe God will work through it. If we do, the long-term positive outcome will outweigh the original negativity of what happened.
The positive outcome can show up quickly as we see in the case of East Coweta high school or it can take some time, maybe even years before we see the full benefit.
Notice how Paul starts the verse in Romans by saying “And we know that God causes all things….” I believe he was referring to past stories of God bringing good out of bad.
One of those involved the Patriarch Joseph who his brother sold into slavery.
He eventually ended up in Egypt, where God raised up Joseph to be second in command in the nation. Years, probably decades later, he provided a safe place for Jacob’s family to live, grow and thrive. It was in Egypt, where Israel became a great nation.
But notice how Joseph acknowledge God’s hand in what happened to him:
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:20 NASV)
Joseph was referring to the betrayal of his own family purposefully plotting evil against him. But he forgave and God was able to bring good out of it.