It’s hard to comprehend, but the approaching Soccer World Cup expects to see close to one million fans descend on sporting stadiums across Russia, with a further three billion enthusiasts gathering around the globe to view the matches via satellite.
What makes this group of men kicking a small ball around a field for 90 minutes so captivating?
Watch a game or two, and you’ll quickly get it. Soccer is a glorious, hair-raising, nail-biting, adrenaline-pumping, award-winning game, just like – well, life!
The players begin their training when they are young. They are born with a certain aptitude for the game, but they have little skill and need to practice daily to improve their balance and speed. They are like small infants, learning to eat, walk and talk.
As they develop their own personal skill, they need to learn to share with others in order to play well. Keeping the ball to themselves will never win the game, so they join a club, develop friendships with their teammates, and together their individual strengths cover each other’s weaknesses. This is the beauty of community and teamwork which we as humans learn throughout our years.
As the team gets more professional, it begins to compete against opposing squads and wow! can they be tough. To be game ready, there are a few things the team needs to know well.
Without a clear understanding of what is right and wrong, the game will be lawless, no one will score legally, and people will get hurt. Knowing where the boundaries of the field are, understanding which side to play on, and respecting the referee when he calls penalty or timeout is critical for a successful game.
When it comes to life, God has placed an intimate knowledge of what is acceptable behaviour in our soul and it outworks itself as our conscience. You’ll know it, it’s that voice that nags you when you’re doing something out-of-bounds.
As humans, we can refuse to come back onto the field God has prepared for us, or we can choose to defect and even play for the opposing team, He won’t force us to play by the rules. But we have to understand, the greatest goals are always going to be scored on the turf God has carefully designed just for us.
The Coaches Instruction
A great team needs a great coach. One who knows how to get the best out of his players, how to celebrate their wins and encourage them through their losses. One who isn’t afraid to discipline his team if they are becoming lazy, disrespectful or prideful. One who will give great thought to who needs a timeout to rest or recover, and who should sit on the bench for a game, so a teammate can enjoy the spotlight.
Just like our conscious works to define good and evil, God’s Holy Spirit is available to us as a mentor, wise counsellor, and relentless cheerleader. He’ll encourage you to push through the pain, to stand back up when you have fallen, and to go for gold even when it seems impossible.
Some competitors can be underhanded. They’ll cheat, lie and seek to injure their opponent to secure a win. Being wise to their tactics is the only way to avoid falling victim to them.
Life is no different. We’re not playing on our home ground, that’s heaven, this time here on earth is a battlefield, where we’ll undoubtedly encounter a great crowd of critics roaring loudly, desperate to drown out the voice of our coach. These voices cause us to doubt our ability, wearing us down until we can no longer play our game well.
The Bible talks about the fact that people who follow Jesus, know His voice. He is the ultimate coach when it comes to the game that is life. If you want to succeed you need to know the voice of the coach, keep your eyes on Him alone, listen as he tells you to duck left and veer right. Jesus the only one with insider knowledge on how to beat the rival team, so trust Him to get you to your goal safely.
A strong soccer team, positions players by their strengths. Some are known for their precision, others their fearless hand-eye coordination, some are strategically powerful and others built for speed. With consistent practice, each player works instinctively with the rest of the team to bring about victory.
Have you noticed how vastly different we as humans are from one another? All with diverse talents, skills, personalities and temperaments. That’s no accident, we were designed that way, so that together, combining what we can each offer, we make the perfect team.
Sometimes a team wins, sometimes it loses. Sometimes a player scores, other times they trip or fall. Sometimes, despite playing their absolute best, another team takes the grand final win. Sometimes there are scuffed knees and broken bones. Defeats and disappointments. The game of soccer is full of highs and lows, and I think you’ll agree, that’s what makes it exciting.
God never promised life would be easy, in fact, He said it would be hard work, with plenty of trials and temptations from opposing teams determined to trip us up. But He also encouraged us to take heart, never give up, and enjoy the precious time we have on the field, for He has already played the game before us, and through His victory, our heavenly prize is guaranteed.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses… let us strip off every weight that slows us down… And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured… then you won’t become weary and give up” – Hebrews 12: 1-3 (NLT).
This game of life is fierce, competitive and fast-paced, but with the right team, the right attitude, and the right coach, you won’t just win a flimsy trophy or worldly title, you’ll create a lifetime of adventure, storing up treasures in your eternal home that are of far greater value and significance.
Playing the game of life alone can be daunting at best, but with Jesus by your side, cheering you on, the challenges become less fearful and the disappointments and hardships are shared making them less hard to bear. To know Jesus is to have won the game and anyone who journeys through life with Him by their side is guaranteed victory at the final whistle.
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