I vividly remember watching the 1986 World Cup finals in my grandmother’s little apartment on a warm June afternoon. The Championship game—Argentina versus West Germany—was held at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in front of 114,600 screaming fans with Argentina returning home as the victors. As a soccer-crazed little 8-year-old living in America, it was a very special treat to watch my favorite sport on that little tube television set. Some of our readers may still remember this World Cup. Although, those from England would rather forget it as Argentinian Diego Maradona cheatingly put England out of the Cup with the infamous “Hand of God” goal—a goal that was anything but divinely inspired.
The World Loves the World Cup
The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, represented by 32 countries whose national teams have undergone a grueling qualification process en route to obtaining the coveted World Cup trophy. For most countries in the world, the Cup is much more than a game. It is a matter of pride and identity. A loss and dismissal from the Cup could and does put a whole country into a “National Day of Mourning.” A championship trophy feeds the opposite: a rush of elation that fades with every passing hour.
As we approach the World Cup this year, it is a good reminder to consider the object of our worship. I have witnessed the sport of soccer used for God’s glory, as both a player and a fan. More often, though, I have seen it used for prideful gain, selfish ambition, and temporal pleasure. I must confess that these opposing intentions have surfaced in my very own heart.
In 1 John 2:15-16, we read,
do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world.
The cheers, the singing, the whistling (means “boos” in America), the TV cameras, the world-class players, the pressure, and of course, the last minute winning goals, ignite a passion for the game that drives millions of people to an almost, if not full blown, worship of the “soccer god.” And with the referee’s blow of the final whistle, it all ends. Emptiness ensues.
God Alone Is Worthy of Worldwide Worship
The temptation to love and worship the things of this world is all around us. Perhaps, the World Cup is a stark reminder of this reality. We, however, are to set our hearts fully on God as the supreme object of our worship. God alone is worthy of our worship. He is a jealous God, and rightfully so. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to become a man, to take on the wrath that we justly deserved, and to grant us the righteousness that only He could give (2 Corinthians 5:21). As a result, we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5).
The Glorious Feast of the Gospel
Richard Sibbes, in The Glorious Feast of the Gospel (1650), aptly instructs us of our time in this world,
…between the promise and heaven itself, it is not a mere waiting time and there is an end. But it is a time which is taken up by the Spirit of God in preparing the heart, in subduing all base lusts, and in taking us off from ourselves and whatsoever is contrary to heaven. The time is filled up with a great deal of that which fits us for glory in heaven.
As those who believe in Jesus Christ through faith, we have the glorious hope that one day we’ll be in the presence of the Lord, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, where there is true fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). This is a Savior, a hope, and a joy that the world could never give. Certainly not the World Cup no matter how crazed the world is about it.
So enjoy this year’s World Cup. But let’s not love it supremely. Let’s not worship it. Worship God and Him alone. Friends, let’s set our hearts on Christ and our hope on the glory of heaven to come.