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       “I never thought we would be world champions. We have to be humble.” 

       (Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal forward, after his team’s 2-2 draw with the U.S. in the World Cup)


        The 2014 FIFA World Cup has captured the attention of millions around the world—putting work on hold, mesmerizing fans, raising enthusiasm to a fever pitch,and moving many to gamble on hopeful outcomes. Yesterday, despite chants of “USA…USA…” America’s premier soccer team experienced a heartbreaking loss to Belgium.  

        Is this sports phenomenon merely a diversion from workplace drudgery, providing temporary relief from daily responsibilities? Is it an extension of national pride,a patriotic contest for supposed superiority? Or does it serve as a substitutionary contest, giving spectators an opportunity to imagine they are the ones making the goals (or saving them)?


         There seems to be a human need to win vicariously, satisfied by victories of one’s favorite team. Life is difficult (as Scott Peck observed). We don’t always win life’s battles,no matter how hard we fight. So it’s good to celebrate our team’s success when they win a game; in the process we feel better for a while. Somehow we’re encouraged to face life’s daily frustrations energized by a small dose of exhilaration.


        I wonder if there might be something more profound going on in this global frenzy over soccer. Could there actually be (to use Jurgen Moltmann’s term) a theology of play? If so, what might it imply? Is there an innate, even God-given, human need for lightheartedness and game playing? Does the agony of defeat drive us to search for more meaningful and valuable enterprises?


        When the World Cup contest is over, and the final winner is announced, what difference will it make in our daily life? As exciting as sports victories are, spiritual victories are more crucial—and lasting. When we fully rely on God to enable us to win over worry, fear, greed, and other sins, triumphing is a real cause for wholehearted celebration.   


         “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 16:20;  1 Corinthians 15:57 NLT)


        Johnny R. Almond

        Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

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