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WORLD CUP SPECIAL MESSAGE
 
WORLD CUP FOOTBALL



Absorbed with World up football? Well, I am one of those who gladly gets "infected" with Soccer fever contagion which “breaks out” once every four 4 years. Let me vouchsafe for the fact that one can never “get sick of” of the “kick” of soccer's "sorcery"! Amongst other things, ever wondered what is so special about the game of football? Unlike other games like say tennis, cricket, hockey etc which require their practitioners to use special equipments, the game of football requires just one air-filled leather sphere to go along with your juggling feet. Captivating chemistry eh?

While football can fascinate for a season, God’s word enchants from eternity to eternity. It is sweeter than honey declared the Psalmist (119:103). Oh the joys of reading and absorbing the Scriptural truths! In this essay, I intend to draw some spiritual lessons from the occurrences and matters related to the World of football.

 Emigration…


Luis MontI – a famous International Football player of yore

Ever heard of Luis Monti? Well, he has a rare distinction of being the only player to have ever played in two World cup finals for two different teams! In 1930, he played in the losing Argentine side; later on he immigrated to Italy and played a pivotal role in Italy winning the 1934 World cup.

In a way every Christian can identify with Luis Monti, isn’t it? To start with we were all “in a country of sin” playing in the losing side of Satan, weren’t we? Our lives were one of one big spiritual defeat, as the following Scripture portion so amply testifies…

“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.” – Titus 3:3 (NLV)

But the Good News with a capital “G” now is we have thanks to His grace “emigrated” to God’s Kingdom as it were, and are now playing in a new victorious team “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit- Titus 3:4-5 (NLV)

Hey, we are on the winning side! Then again, what about the author of this epistle to Titus from which the above-mentioned Scripture portions’ have been extracted? Mr. Saul of Tarsus, when he set out to Damascus to persecute Christians, he was playing for the Satan’s team but en-route thanks to God’s everlasting grace, he was “wrung out” of Devil’s outfit and “grafted” into the winning side of Christ (Acts 9:1-20) as an apostle. Look at his touching testimonial to this effect…

“For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.”I Corinthians 15:9-10

By the way for “whose team” are you playing? IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM, ONE CANNOT BE NEUTRAL. If you are not for “Calvary cavaliers” (read Jesus' team), remember consciously or unconsciously, you are playing for “Hell dwellers” (read Satan's side)!

Only, if you have this emigration experience, you would be able to better appreciate what follows in this Essay…

 Instruction…


Football coach-Different moods

While a football team plays on the field, unlike Cricket where captain holds sway, the one who “holds the strings” in the game of football, is an unseen (in the field) manager or the coach. It is he, who spends countless hours molding his team into a winning combination. Right from training… to strategizing… to final team selection, a manager sheds his “blood and sweat” in order his team and its supporters taste “sweet success”. Though in the sidelines, during the game his involvement is total! Do not we see the whole gamut of emotions registering in his countenance…from agony to ecstasy, from anxiety to relief when TV camera’s zoom in now and then to show the global audience his varying emotions, during the key moments of the match?

Could there have been a greater manager than Christ? Though the disciples were in some cases from diametrically opposite backgrounds, he fashioned them into a winning unit, who would now play with a single goal in mind. Oh yes, Nehemiah made men of different professions work side-by-side (a goldsmith and a perfume maker – Nehemiah 3:8) but Christ is greater for he accomplished a far more difficult task of making men of TOTALLY DIFFERENT IDEOLOGIES work shoulder to shoulder. Imagine a Taliban terrorist and US marine sinking their differences for a common cause and playing in a same team in a football field in Kabul! Preposterous? Well, that exactly is the picture which comes to the fore, when we see Matthew (a pro-Roman government tax collector before becoming a disciple- Matt 9:9-13) and Simon the Zealot (violently opposed to Roman government- Mark 3:18) together putting their shoulders to the “Gospel wheel”, as it were…

How could Christ do it? By his own exemplary uncompromising lifestyle, which was all about of being willing to lay EVERYTHING at the altar for the glory of the Father, leave alone petty (relatively speaking that is) ideological differences? Consider this verse …In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach- Acts 1:1. Look at the sequencing of the words, DO precedes TEACH. Right? He would not ask his men to do anything, which he himself would not do before (from the foreword “They call me coach”… thanks Bill Walton)!

He also trained up His mostly unschooled disciples in a way that the religious leaders of his day simply marveled…

“When the Council saw the boldness of Peter and John, and could see that that they were obviously uneducated non-professionals, they were amazed and realized WHAT BEING WITH JESUS HAD DONE FOR THEM” – Acts 4:13 (TLB). Do you know one more secret- post Pentecostal experience- in spirit he was now WITHIN them…?

Further a look at his strategies would convince us that he put the right men in the “right position”. While on the subject, ever pondered why Jesus chose 'doubting Thomas' of all apostles -a person whose name is dubiously synonymous with cynicism to minister- for Him in India (a country with a deep religious mindset). Only a rationalist like Thomas could have logically expounded the sound Biblical precepts to men who were well founded in matters of religion (Indians as always were quite religious in I century AD also). Tradition says that having studied the Vedas and seen them speaking about the “coming Lamb of God” , LIKE A TRUE RATIONALIST Thomas pointed at all the Vedic proofs relating to Christ with conviction to religious men of his day. Is it any wonder then, that the very first persons, Thomas baptized in his ministry in India were orthodox namboodhiri Brahmins in Palayur, Kerala! For more on the Vedic Christ-related proofs, you may click on this link…

http://www.jandsmministries.com/vadic.asp


This pond and statues at the Palayur church represent St. Thomas baptizing the Brahmins

Finally consider the unwitting compliment that the enemies (I repeat not friends) of the Christ’s disciples paid to them “THESE MEN HAVE TURNED THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN” – Acts 17:6 and the picture of the HISTORY’S GREATEST COACH emerges with no shades of grey! Boy, disciples’ accomplishment thanks to Christ’s enablement was not merely about winning the World cup but the World itself for the Master!!!

By the way Christian leader are you faithfully following your Master’s footsteps in being an example to people around you (Titus 2:7)?

 Capitalization…


The “Bomber” bombing away…

“Dribbling and dodging”, lets speed away into one more lesson from Soccer. Gerd Muller? Does it ring a bell? With national record of 68 goals in 62 international appearances, this German footballer was aptly nicknamed the ‘Bomber’. He is one of the very few players of 50 or more caps to score more goals than the games he has played. What made him so effective in goal mouth action? His uncanny ability to capitalize on even a small opportunity and convert it into a goal.

Now coming to “Gospel action”. Be on the go when it comes to looking out for an opportunity to share the Gospel. When a chance it arises, it needs to be grabbed... with both feet… opps…I mean…hands!

“They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John. Peter saw his opportunity (emphasis mine) and addressed the crowd.” – Acts 3:11-12

“…Preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not…”II Tim 4:2 (TLB)

Didn’t somebody say if we do not evangelize, we fossilize! If we realize this truth and work sincerely, we get the PRIZE (I Thess 2:19 NKJV)!

 Protection…


Gordon Bank’s “save of the century” of a Pele header – Mexico WC 1970

In Football, winning is not only about goal-scoring but also goal-defending! You can bank upon Gordon Banks (of England) anytime old timers would say of World’s greatest goalkeeper. Old English football commentators bemoaning his absence (taken ill before the match) in a critical quarter-final encounter against ole’ enemy Germany, which England lost despite leading 2-0 at one time, even today claim the Banks presence could have made all the difference on that day. So a good guardian of the goal can indeed spell difference between the Victor and the Vanquished in a Football match. In the Church also “good guardians of the Biblical truths” are required lest the apostates and heretics score a goal on devils behalf (Jude 1:3/ I Thess 5:21). With several wrong doctrines and cultists on the prowl, how do we guard ourselves against their subtle machinations? The answer is to be well-grounded in the Scriptures, so we can immediately detect their wrong teachings. A banker (Banks again eh!) would say the best way to detect a counterfeit currency is to know well how the original one looks. Ditto in the Spiritual realm too! Didn’t somebody also say in the same context “You can recognize a crooked line, only when you know how a straight line looks”?

 Underestimation…


A Goalie taking a goalkick

So we think that a goalkeeper is merely ‘the last line of defence’ with an important role to play in saving goals but with no role to play in scoring goals and basking in the limelight subsequently. Nay! A shrewd guardian of the citadel is actually the ‘first line of offence’ say Sports analysts. A crafty goalie while taking a routine goal kick does not look at it as one long aimless punt ‘into the middle’ but rather as an opportunity to pass the ball the aerial way to some unguarded teammate to seize the opportunity on the moment. AND CAN YOU BELIEVE IT (STRAIGHT FROM RIPLEY’S BOOK OF BELIEVE IT OR NOT) GOOLKEEPERS CAN EVEN TAKE THE BALL ALL THE WAY TO THE OPPOSITION CITADEL AND SCORE A GOAL…



How like in the Christian realm! In His kingdom, unexpectedly the least are used of the Lord for achieving great ‘goals’. Do not underestimate your own capacity, when it comes to be used by the good Lord. For instance, John 4:29, captures the scene of the most unlikely ‘woman missionary’ in action, so much so our Lord remarked in the context of rewards on the judgment day that there shall be plenty of surprises…

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” – Matt 19:30 (NKJV)

Not in the frontline? Dear brother/sister do not get discouraged. Make taking the ‘goal kick’ whole-heartedly and meaningfully for the Lord, your goal AND IF THE LORD INSPIRES YOU TO COME TO THE FRONTLINE, DO IT BOLDLY…

 Co-ordination


Now let’s play a defense -splitting pass, splitting devil’s defense that is. What is a football team without teamwork? A BIG ZERO! To win, the team needs to work like a well-oiled machine with each part playing its role to perfection. The defenders, the midfielders and forwards with a goalie in tow, HAVE THEIR OWN SPECIALIZED ROLES TO PLAY TOGETHER IN CONSONANCE WITH THE GOAL OF THE TEAM TO SCORE A GOAL!

By the same token what is a Church with several “gifted individuals” without proper co-ordination amongst themselves? A non-entity! Team work in its noblest form is not only about playing with each other but playing for each other. Consider Apostle Paul’s wise words here, spoken in the context of much needed “teamwork” in the Corinthian church…

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”I Cor 12:4-7

Best example of team work? You do not have to look beyond the Trinity working in unity to procure our salvation. God chose us, Son shed his blood on the cross as a ransom to purchase us from sin’s grasp and the Holy Spirit convicted us at the right time and made us accept the Divine Redemption plan and would keep the sanctification process going till we reach the heavenly shores or the Bridegroom comes first to receive us (
I Peter 1:2). Didn’t somebody say in this context of Salvation “God thought it, Christ bought it, Holy Spirit wrought it and though devil fought it, praise God, I have got it”! Hallelujah! Also have we ever praised the Trinity for absolute selflessness within themselves? The Son was willing to die an excruciating death on the cross to obey His Father’s will (Luke 22:42) and the Father selflessly exalted the Son’s name above ALL names- Philippians 2:9 (including His own names such as Elohim, El-Shaddai, Adonai etc) and the Holy Spirit when we are worshipping helps us but never calls attention to Himself. AMAZING ISN’T IT? THE OTHER-CENTREDNESS IN TRINITY! If this does not inspire us to play for each other, then nothing else will!

Historically, it has been proven that if the Church is to take wing… all the wings of the Church have to work in harmony.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.- Eph 4:11-12

Remember the good ole’ definition of the word TEAM? TOGETHER EVERYONE ACHIEVES MORE! Do I need to say MORE?

 Destination


What is the ultimate goal of any player/team in the World cup competition? To win the cup that matters. All the hard work, tonnes of sweat shed in training, the expectations of countless fans, players’ personal dreams all suffuse in that one ethereal moment …when the cup is handed over to the team. Oh the joys of lifting the cup in full media glare! Hey, Christian you are pursuing a loftier goal, isn’t it…?

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. - Philippians 3:14

This heavenly prize (too beautiful to describe), mind you won’t slip away from our hands after say 4 years like the earthly World cup does at times. OURS is for keeps! So press on …and land the prize, praising Him! Hallelujah!




Suresh Manoharan