Every four years millions of passionate and dedicated people gather together across the world to celebrate a global event. Songs and chants of adulation, praise and encouragement ring out, as crowds pledge their allegiance and display their true colours, united by a common interest and single minded obsession. Personal and financial sacrifice is made to allow access to these events, where brothers and sisters stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, displaying emotions without reservation or embarrassment. Some make a pilgrimage to the main festival, and some chose to have local events to express their devotion.
This may sound like a huge worship event, but I am actually describing the football World Cup! The tournament kicked off a few days ago and it always amazes me how a fairly simple game can draw such enormous interest across the world. Hundred and thousands, if not millions of people worship the game of football. (soccer if you’re reading in America!)
Everyone worships something. It is a human need to have a focus for our existence and to have meaning in our lives. For some it is football, but it can be work, family, money, possessions, fitness, music…The list is endless, because as Tim Keller says: “worship is the act of ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that energises and engages your whole person or being.”
What do you worship? Do you get carried away with supporting your favourite sports team, consumed with reaching the top of the career ladder, or obsessed with always having the latest car or the biggest house?
The first commandment demands that we have no other gods but God Almighty. Anything that takes your energy and focus away from God can become an object of worship and an idol, and prevent you from having a full relationship with the true God. This does not mean that God does not want us to enjoy football, or work, or family. They are all good things and are given as gifts for us to enjoy. The important thing is not to allow them to consume us to the point that God gets crowded out.
God made us to worship him and have relationship with him. There is nothing more worthy of our worship than God. That means that we give him our best. Just as it takes commitment, passion, time and energy to be an avid football fan, so it takes these things to be a follower of Christ. The reward of following a football team to World Cup glory would be fantastic (not that I’ll ever find out as an England fan!), but the rewards for following Christ is eternal glory!
One day we will stand I front of God’s throne worshipping him as described in Revelation 5 :
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, :saying
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
A few nights ago I was watching the England versus Italy game. Italy went one goal ahead before half time, but this was almost immediately cancelled out by a great goal scored by England striker Daniel Sturridge. After scoring such an important goal in the biggest tournament in the world most players would celebrate by soaking up the adulation of the crowd, sprinting across the pitch into a massive knee slide, or performing all manner of theatrical and gymnastic demonstrations! Daniel Sturridge pointed to the sky, looked up and said “I love you Jesus, I praise you Father”!
I didn’t notice what he’d said until they replayed the shot in slow motion and it was easier to lip read. It struck me as as an example of true worship of God, in sharp contrast with the worship of football. He was using his gifts and talents to bring joy to his team and millions of fans, but demonstrating what was most important, by not allowing Football to be everything in that moment. Amidst the noise, exhilaration, and enormity of the occasion, he found a the opportunity to give glory to God and worship Him from that football pitch
We cannot all play international football, but we can all worship God in everything we do, using the gifts and abilities we have been given. God delights when we do, because that is why he created us.
Pray and commit to giving God the glory in everything you do, and ascribe ultimate value to Him, and Him alone.