Monday, July 14, 2014

Brazil’s Humiliating Defeat In World Cup 2014 And Life Lessons Learnt

            Football is considered to be a religion in the South American countries. Brazil, a five time winner of the world cup, was a hot favorite to win this year’s edition. After Neymar’s debilitating injury and Captain Thiago Silva’s suspension, not many expected Brazil to defeat a powerful German team in the semifinals.

            But hardly anyone expected Brazil to lose by seven goals to Germany. This defeat is not only abnormal but exceedingly humiliating. A run of the mill defeat would have been a one, two or even a three goal loss. But a seven goal defeat was incredibly shameful.  

            Brazil’s humiliating defeat teaches us valuable life lessons, which I submit for your consideration.

Topsy-Turvy Life

            You may remember the brutal murder of Columbian footballer Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga for scoring an own goal that led to his team’s elimination from the 1994 world cup. Even death need not be a surprise to these high profile players who carry their nation’s expectations and hopes on their rather frail human shoulders.

            One day the Brazilians were the hot favorites, high flying, and adored by many. The next day they crash-landed because of their humiliating loss.

            This is life; one day we may be on top of the world – peaceful, successful, praiseworthy, and sought after. The next day when something goes terribly wrong in our life, we crash-land badly.

            Peace then becomes a rare commodity. Success abandons us. People who sang our praises will gossip and abuse us. Friends will compete to cease their friendship with us. That one loss, that one setback, albeit outside human control, will drive a thousand nails into our coffin. A life that was once so bright and prosperous turns dark and gloomy.

            This is life. How then do we live this topsy-turvy life without losing our sanity and more importantly, our faith in God? 

Thankful Life

            A stunning image after Brazil’s devastating loss was the on-field prayers of David Luiz and Luis Gustavo. Should we wonder what motivated their prayers immediately after the horrifying loss?

            The bible teaches us to be thankful in all circumstances. Job’s fascinating response to his wife teaches us the foundation for being thankful, “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2: 10, NASB). Do we not know that God’s not a magic potion for our success?

            When we realize that God is not a magic potion for our worldly success, then we will certainly live our lives in constant gratitude. It’s a grievous error to think that success and adulation should always fill our Christian life. The Bible does not teach anything even remotely close to this.

            Notably, the Bible teaches us to be thankful to God always - in joy and pain (1 Thessalonians 5: 18). The Bible also teaches us to be intentional in our thankfulness to God (Colossians 4: 2).

            How do we condition ourselves to be constantly thankful?

Godly Life

            Conditioning ourselves to be constantly thankful is to live a godly life. But how do we live a godly life?

            Could God have prevented Brazil’s slaughter by Germany? The sovereign God could have certainly prevented the slaughter, but HE did not. God’s in absolute control over everything that happens in this universe, world cup soccer included. But God chose not to prevent Brazil’s slaughter. Why? We may never know and we need not know the precise reason.

            Man cannot evaluate God based on worldly successes and failures. An average man’s life may contain more failures than successes. Permit me to elaborate from within the sporting paradigm.

            Brazil’s five world cup wins is more than any other team. But when we recollect Brazil’s five wins, do we realize Brazil’s fifteen losses in world cup competitions, since 1930?    

            Brazil lost in fifteen (15) and won in five (5) world cup competitions. Germany lost sixteen (16) and won four (4), Argentina lost eighteen (18) and won two (2), England lost nineteen (19) and won one (1). Every single soccer team has experienced more failures than success. This is a fact.

            Spain won the 2010 world cup. Until then, Spain had failed in every world cup competition.

            This is life. We suffer multiple failures, and this holds true with successful people as well. Failures do not overwhelmingly discourage successful people.   

            Westminster Shorter Catechism accurately interprets the Bible to state that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy HIM forever. Men may forsake each other during failures, but God never leaves or forsakes anyone anytime. It is during failure that man can experience God’s grace sufficiently (2 Corinthians 12: 9). 

            A Christian focuses on God always, more so during failures. When he focuses on God, he thinks and sees everything in God’s perspective. When he fails to understand the reason for his failure and suffering, he humbles himself in God’s presence, and trusts in God’s goodness, justice and love. He entrusts his failure into God’s gracious presence to receive peace, power and the wisdom to endure and overcome his failure.

            Godly life is lived in constant and unchanging love, trust and hope on God and HIM alone, at all times, so to glorify HIM.

Perfectly Imperfect Life

            As I begin this section of the essay, Brazil has lost the game for the third place by three goals to Holland. Thiago Silva’s defensive lapse led to the first goal. In the previous game against Germany, David Luiz’s defensive lapse led to the first goal.

            Perfection is humanly impossible. It would have been perfect for David Luiz to have defended Muller, so to have prevented the first goal that led to a cascade of goals. But Luiz didn’t, and the rest is history.

            Perfection in every situation is humanly impossible. Humans are essentially imperfect. God alone is perfect. David Luiz may have played many perfect games, but in the most significant game, he failed; he was imperfect.

            But he didn’t fail intentionally. Let’s discern this crucial detail.

            We cannot always be perfect in our lives. I am not alluding to our sinful nature. There are instances where we do not need to sin to be imperfect.

            David Luiz’s imperfect defense, due to a possible lapse in concentration, is a classic case in point. David Luiz did not sin; he didn’t play well enough in that particular situation. Thus he was unintentionally imperfect.

            We will be unintentionally imperfect too. These unintentional imperfections could lead us to fail. These unintentional imperfections need not be sinful.

            A common unintentional imperfection we suffer from is forgetfulness. In India, if we forget to pay our electricity bill, there would come a time when the electricity department would disconnect the power supply to our home.

            Sometimes these power outages could prove disastrous especially if we have to miss out on crucial appointments with reputed clients. Such lapses could cost our jobs and our lives would go south into utter darkness.

            But God is a God of grace and mercy. HE never fails to lead his disciple out of his failure. HE never fails to strengthen HIS disciple to endure the failure.

            We could overcome these unintentional imperfections. God’s grace entails this possibility.

            But the disciple should remain in Christ so to receive God’s guidance and strength, especially during moments of abject failures. Thus, the prayers of Gustavo and David Luiz makes much sense, for it is through prayer we receive strength and wisdom to endure and overcome failures.

Peace In A Ridiculed Life

            The world loves to ridicule those in pain. Due to their abject failure, we can confidently assume that the Brazilian players would receive hate taunts, visits, phone calls, emails, and tweets etc. in plenty.

            Living through ridicule is never easy for anyone. But it is possible to live through this ridicule. How?

            The Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7, NASB).

            Once again, it’s wise to pray during failures, for when we pray to God, HIS peace fills our hearts and minds, and guards us in Christ Jesus - our Lord and Savior.

Hopeful Life

            Any team can win the 2018 world cup. The winner of 2018 could probably be a team that has never won the world cup. In other words, a team that has failed in this year’s edition could win the next world cup. This is a definite possibility.

            The qualifying competitions for the 2018 world cup in Russia would begin soon. All the teams, the past champions and the future-hopeful, would vie for the top honors. This too is life.

            Germans had not tasted world cup success in two decades. They were in a world cup drought since 1990. But they didn’t give up. They hoped, they trained, they played, and they played exceedingly well to be the most worthy world champions.  

            Do not give up. The Bible teaches that hope is inherent in faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11: 1, NASB, Emphasis mine).

            The Bible also teaches that God is a God of hope, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15: 13, NASB).

            So let us continue to discern God’s will for our life and not give up. Let us hope in God and by the grace and the power of God, HIS will will be done in our life.

            I pray that God’s peace and hope would fill all those who earnestly seek it – the Brazilian soccer team, all the other teams that failed in this edition of the world cup, you, and me. Amen.

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