I did not growing up playing soccer. I grew up playing baseball and even more basketball in high school and college. In fact, I had a negative view of soccer and really thought that it was mostly boring, both to play and watch. But this opinion would change in June of 2009. At that time, my 9 month-old son, Dikaio was having a hard time sleeping through the night and I was on daddy duty with him so it led us into some late nights/early mornings together. The 2010 FIFA World Cup was underway in Johannesburg, South Africa and many games were on tv from 3am and on. It was then, that I discovered the greatness and the awe of what is the international phenomena of soccer.
I began to have a huge respect for the concept of soccer and for the passion of the fans after seeing and noting several things in the 2010 World Cup, in several other international games I have seen since and in this current 2014 World Cup, being played now in Brazil. While I still haven't played it much and I still have a lot to learn about it, here is something that has changed my perspective on it and has also taught me something about Christian living.
The Non-Goal is just as significant as a Goal
Based on my earlier view it seemed that in a soccer game, the ball was just going back and forth without purpose for 90 minutes and the usually low score was insignificant. But nothing could be further from the truth. In soccer, the ball goes back and forth precisely because every time it hits the ground there is an intense battle to win control of the ball. Every player who is in range of the ball must be alert and must prepare to engage their opponent with sprinting speed and agility. In fact, some players average a run of 20 miles by the time a game is over. It may seem insignificant how the battle for control of the ball at one end of the field can affect the score at the other, but that is exactly what happens. So in soccer one grows to appreciate the countless times that their goal keeper blocks a kick or the times that their opponent narrowly misses a goal. One learns to have a deep appreciation for something that didn't happen and develops a gratefulness for those who helped to prevent it from happening. One who really understands the game doesn't only look at the score on the board, but looks at what could have been the score against them, had it not been for their team members. (Unfortunately, for them, if you're following the world cup you'll know that today Brazil seemed to have allowed all of its non-goals to become goals for Germany!)
In the book of Psalms in the Bible there is a chapter that speaks of God's people giving him thanks for what didn't happen. Its found in Psalm 124. Take a moment and read it here.
Psalm 124:1 A song of ascents. Of David. If the LORD had not been on our side-- let Israel say--
2 if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psa 124:1-8 NIV)
Obviously this psalm is written during the time of the nation of Israel being under attack from other nations and people groups. This is not how we are to read the psalms for the church today. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Today we find the truth in the Psalms through the way the Christ has fulfilled the scriptures for us. In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we have received salvation from the evil of unforgiveness, from the tyranny of personal sin, from the ignorance of societal injustice and from the very ultimate enemy of death and hell. While these things still pose a serious threat in our world and still wound us on this side of eternity, we should really learn to pause and pray with the ancient Israelites and say, "had the Lord not been on our side". We should ask God to help us grow in being able to see our spiritual life not only through the obvious victories and wonderful feelings we get when things go well, but also meditate on the many times that Christ has been our rock, how he has helped us endure tragedies and how he has defeated the grave on our behalf. When we get tired and exhausted in our faith journey, we can take time to thank God for his love which fights for us until the end of time. Like those who play soccer, we can have a new way to pray and be grateful by not only looking at the scoreboard for personal gain. The financial, educational or romantic, successes in our life are still to be paled in comparison to the greatness of what our God is doing and by how he has forever destroyed the permanent effects of sin, injustice, disease, death and hell.
How can you grow in praying and thanking God for being on your side against sin, death and hell? How can you grow in praising God for his redemption and his forgiveness in your life? How can you pause and give thanks for what you can see and what you can't see that he has done and is doing for his people?
"Our help is in the name of the Lord."
Pastor Marco Ambriz
P.S. Now, Lets go Netherlands!