Finding Faith with Forest Whitaker

Known for playing characters inspired by historical figures, Forest Whitaker’s credits include Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Black Nativity, Roots and many more. Whitaker won an Academy Award for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland. We interviewed Whitaker three years ago and talked about his personal faith story and how he decides on if he wants to accept a role.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” Hebrews 11:1-4

Whitaker reflected on how his upbringing affected his personal faith journey.

“I was raised in church. My grandfather was a preacher for 50 years. My father’s side is full of teachers and preachers. If you go to my family reunion, everybody is either a teacher or a preacher. I was brought up that way. The one thing that my mom did that I consider is really a great gift is that when I was a little kid [and we had to go to church] I would say, ‘I don’t want to get up. Why do I have to believe what you believe?’ my mom in her great wisdom said to me, ‘You don’t have to believe in what I believe, but you have to believe in something. So get up!’ She was right in that way. So in that respect my mind is open to understanding the connections between all traditions and people trying to become better individuals and more divine. It has carried that way through me all my life.” 

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40

Whitaker opened up on what it has been like to be a part of films with strong historical, faith and character messages and how he decides to be a part of them.

“It is very important to me to feel like I am showing the face of humanity, bringing hope and that I am bringing clarity to some individual that we might not know. I like being able to help others see behind the veil into someone’s heart. Part of my spiritual life is my work and my journey into finding the character and trying to find the connection. I seek God to guide me to be able to play this individual. A big part of my work is about surrender. At a certain point, I have to surrender to the character and trust through faith that God is going to reveal something. Those themes are very important to me, more than any other factor.” 

Risen Reflections

What is your faith story? Take time this week to reflect on how your upbringing has affected your view of God. Whether you have grown up in the church or didn’t find God until later in life, God wants to use your story to help others. You don’t have to have a perfect life or story to be used by God. Write down your faith story. Start by sharing it with a friend or someone in your small group. Ask them what they think and have them help you refine it. Then see if you can share it with a group of people. Pray and ask God to show you who to share your story with and be willing to listen to their story as well! Even if we are already believers, we can learn so much from other people when they share their story with us.

Make your faith your compass. Whether it is a movie role, career choice, or a seemingly small decision, take it to God and ask Him what you should do. It is easy to operate on our own in our own knowledge, but God wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit for direction and wisdom. Sometimes, the decision might not make sense, but that is where God wants you to have faith.

Reflect on faith. Take time this week to study Hebrews 11. Look up the examples shared of the characters and how they relied on God during their trials. How did God speak to them? How did He provide for them? Were there others that came alongside them and helped them? As you reflect, pray and ask God to increase your faith. If there is a certain aspect of your relationship with God that is difficult, ask Him for help and his truth.

To read our entire interview with Forest Whitaker, click here.

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