T.C. Stallings ("War Room") suffered a string of unimaginable tragedies this season, which led to the release of his new docufilm, "24 Counter: The Story BEHIND the Run."
The film follows the life of the former football player turned Christian actor. Viewers will journey through his life from growing up in a dangerous, low-income neighborhood, the impact that upbringing had on his life and how it fueled his career.
"His opportunity came through football, but Tony's struggles were far from over. A position change, injury, and a huge spiritual wake-up call are only the beginning. His childhood dream and new-found faith are about to be tested like never before," the film's synopsis reads.
The award-nominated documentary became available via On Demand on June 30.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Stallings where he shares his testimony of how the Holy Spirit enabled him to release a film while in one of the hardest seasons of his life.
Christian Post: You adapted your new film from your book, Playing on God's Team. Can you share about it?
Stallings: Me and my wife joke about this because we call it a docu-mony [documentary/ testimony]. I think we might've invented that word. It's a documentary about my testimony about how I came to know the Lord. It just happened at a time where I was in college playing college football, around my sophomore year. The story was so inspiring and I wanted to make sure that people knew it, especially athletes.
It started off as a book that I wrote called Playing on God's Team, where I was targeting athletes who I know are in the locker rooms just like I was having to deal with having a strong faith while still being in college, while still being an athlete and all the temptations that come along with that. So it started off as just that. Then when I realized that a team by definition is just a collection of people coming together for a common goal, I started to think, "Well, Christians are a collection of Christ followers coming together for the common goal of telling people about Jesus.
So I realized this book is for everybody. So I started sharing the book with everybody. Then because I lead off in the book with telling my story, I decided to go ahead and open up that testimony with pictures and video. I'm like, "You know what, let's just make this into a documentary of my testimony so that people can see it." The movie is like sitting there having a cup of coffee with me and you asked me, "TC, tell me about yourself, how did you come to know the Lord?" I get to tell you, and meanwhile, all these pictures and videos are popping up over top of my head.
CP: You've gone on to accomplish great things despite growing up in a rough neighborhood and in poverty. Can you share words of advice for anyone out there that feels hopeless because of their life’s circumstances?
Stallings: As I look at what's going on right now, as a 42-year-old man, everything that I've learned over the years that the Lord has taught me, and then I go back to Cleveland now, I'm a young kid, and I live in a world that we live in right now, what would I be able to tell myself is that none of this is surprising God. None of this is outside of His strengths. None of this is something where I can't pray to Him and ask Him what to do in the midst of it. If I was a young kid right now, if I was anybody right now, my thing would be, "Lord, I know you have a plan, this ain't surprising you, what is my role within these times that we living in?" Then I will be able to obey and let the Holy Spirit lead me. If there are painful moments, well, if the Lord is leading, then I know I can call that ordained pain, this is what He planned for me to go through. Then that means He's going to strengthen me to be able to get out of it.
For me, growing up, I didn't even know exactly all the things that I know now. But then that's the other great thing about God's mercy, His grace, because here I am as a kid, living in a tough neighborhood, living in poverty, living around gangs, didn't have my dad, all the ingredients to where you don't succeed in life. But God had a plan at that time. I'm thinking football got planted in my heart as just a means out of a neighborhood where He was like, "Ah, in about 10-12 years, you're going to come head on with Me. I'm going to use football to get you to come see Me, and I'm going to change your life." So He has a plan regardless of what's going on in our world.
CP: Can you expound more on the term ordained pain?
Stallings: One of my favorite scriptures is Psalms 139:16, "You saw me before I was born, every day of my life was recorded in your book, every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." That became one of my favorite scriptures because I'm like, "Wait a minute, that means that God, before I was born, laid out what He wanted me to do. So I'm like, "How do I explain the bad times? Did God actually plan out some rough spots in my life?" Absolutely. You can look at Job you can look at all these people, where God's like, "You know what Satan, I'm going to let you touch him. But that's because I got a plan that's going to bring Me glory." That's ordained pain.
When I have mistakes in my life that I made on my own due to my sin, that's TC pain. I don't want that. If I'm going to have some troubles and struggles, then I want the ones that are promised to me in Scripture, "In this life you will have trouble. But take heart I've overcome the world." That's ordained pain. Anyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted. That's ordained pain. These are promises that we skip over sometimes. But if we lean into that and grow from it, then God will get the glory. So I'm all about that ordained pain. I don't sign up to be hurt. I ain’t no tough guy. But if God puts me on that path, I'm all for it because I know He's got a reason for it.
CP: The times are pretty chaotic right now. There's a pandemic, social unrest, racial injustice, what do you think about your movie coming out in the middle of all this?
Stallings: Well, this is another thing that I'm inspired about because when I really did work on this, it was during right when COVID-19 began. I'm an actor, everything that I normally do got shut down, you're not able to do anything within the industry. I public speak. Well, you can't speak in public. Literally, everything I do got shut down. So I'm sitting in my home and then we got quarantine, nobody can leave and go anywhere. So you're just sitting here and just like I've never experienced anything like this in my life.
Then on April 15, my mother died from COVID-19. Then four weeks later, my grandmother died, her mother. So all of this is happening and I pray, "Lord, this is really painful, but I got a bunch of siblings. Some of them don't know the Lord, some do. I have a responsibility for them." The Holy Spirit literally held me up so that I can stay strong and do what I need. It ain't TC strength, straight up the Holy Spirit. And it was during this moment that I leaned into this project and got it done.
So I wanted people to ask me when did this happen? What has happened at a time where I could have bogged up and cry ... and that would have been fine if the Holy Spirit didn't have a bigger vision for me at the moment. So during this pandemic, I reached out to my family and did the best I could for them, got through two funerals, and knocked out a documentary that will tell people how good God is in my life. I did it at that time, not when everything was great, I did it when everything was hurting. If you're not inspired by that alone, just understand this — you don't have to do what everybody else is doing. You don't know how to handle it. You can literally say to yourself, "Lord, even in this, what purpose do you have for me? What do you want me to do?" So that's how I handled the racism. That's how I handled COVID-19. That's how I handled anything whether we're dealing with as I'm like, Lord, what's your purpose in this? And then He showed me what it is.
The only other thing I would add to that is, a lot of people have to understand that's why we got to continue to read Scripture, that you need to look at Scripture and see that this shouldn't be shocking us that this is happening. While everybody's running around, trying to find solutions to stop it and end it, it's one of those things where it's like, "I need to play my role within it" because the Bible promises that times will get like this. We have to operate within it, pull those out of it that want to come to Jesus and be pulled out of it. But the rest is going to happen. It's actually a sign that Jesus is on His way. So I'm just using Scripture to navigate through all of this and I'll continue to do it and birthed out of that came this docu-mony and anything else the Lord wants me to do.
CP: Can you talk more about your loss?
Stallings: During the funerals, we couldn't even get into Ohio to be at a funeral. So I had to watch it on TV, both of them. They sent me a picture of my mom and all my siblings have it. This happened April 15. Then my grandmother died just four weeks later. It was like, you can sit there and just let this stuff beat you up. Or you can be like, "Lord, how can you get glory out of this?" We always talk about the peace that surpasses understanding. Well, you can't display that if you never get put in situations you don't understand. A lot of us talk about being a Christian but this is the part of it that people don't focus on enough is when people see you fight through pain, when people see you make it through stuff that they're dealing with too, but they don't quite have the strength to do it. You're like, "Hey, neither do I. This is what it looks like when you let the Holy Spirit lead and give you the strength to get through it."
I can talk about that peace that surpasses understanding because again, everything I'm doing came out of it. I've been waiting to just fall apart and just break down and cry and just all that I keep thinking is going to happen. I've dreamed about my mother almost every day. But what keeps happening is "the longer I hold you up, you can be there for your family, you can be there for anybody who wants to hear about this, you can show them the peace that surpasses understanding. Instead of just constantly sharing scriptures about it, let me let you live it out" — which is the essence of the docu-mony. Everything I talk about in my life, now you get to see through documentation through real video. I can tell you this. Somebody loses their mom, their grandmother, their livelihood, all of their opportunity, everything shuts down and they still say, "Yet well, I trusted Him. Alright, I think I want the peace of God like that," versus me falling off and just letting Satan have his way with me. So I hope that's what people get out of it.
The film is dedicated to Stallings’ mother as he shared on Instagram.
"24 Counter: The Story BEHIND the Run” can now be streamed On Demand.