Monday, July 7, 2014

Neymar’s Out; Will God Help Brazil To Win 2014 FIFA World Cup Again?

            Neymar’s out; will Brazil be eliminated from the world cup? Prayers from players and fans alike will plead for a miraculous Brazilian win.

The world cup sequence is obvious. Fans hope their favorite team would win, and players hope for God’s help. It’s a common sight for players to display the sign of the cross or look heavenward while entering and during the game.

            “The walls of hospitals have heard more prayers than the walls of churches” is a quote that’s highly probable. And if I may add, the sporting arenas too have heard more prayers than the walls of churches, though not to the extent of the hospitals.

            The 2002 Brazilian world cup soccer team, after their world cup win, proudly displayed messages such as “Jesus loves you” and “I belong to Jesus.” The team knelt down and prayed in the soccer field.

            The Brazilian soccer team, and in particular Kaka and Lucio, repeated their public display of their love for the living God after their winning performance at the 2009 Confederations cup. FIFA then promptly reminded the Brazilian team of the regulations that awaited them in case of a future repeat of public religious affections.1

            If God helped the 2002 Brazilian soccer team to win, then there is a good possibility that HE would help them to win again, isn’t it? But did God help the Brazilians win in 2002? Or does God enable players and team to win? If so, why?

            If we affirm God’s favorable presence in the 2002 Brazilian soccer team’s win, then we should contemplate God’s absence in the failure of the Brazilian soccer teams of 2006 and 2010 world cups. Although avowed Christians, Kaka and Lucio, played in the 2006 and 2010 world cups, the Brazilians failed to win. So the assumption of God helping the 2002 Brazilian soccer team to win seems off the mark to begin with. Or is it?

            Let’s get something important out of our way. If God helped the 2002 Brazilian soccer team to win, then did HE help them because they were the only true Christians? In other words, are we to believe that the other teams did not have genuine Christians in them? I would confidently imagine the presence of at least one genuine Christian in the other soccer teams of the 2002 world cup.

The Bible states that God is impartial (Romans 2: 11). If God is impartial, then HE does not play favorites between two genuine Christian players.  

            If God ordained the 2002 Brazilian team to win, then it’s not because of the truthfulness of the Christian(s) in the Brazilian soccer team, but because of God’s greater purpose. Therefore, for some reason the true Christians in the soccer teams did not always win the world cup.

            So much so, in any sport, there is no assurance that true Christians would win always. Why?

            If God ensures wins for true Christians always, then mankind would throng to believe in God only to obtain success (win). Mankind would not approach God for who HE is. God, then, would be a magic potion for success.

            But the Bible mandates mankind to love God more than their own life (Cf. Luke 10: 27). So we could plausibly infer that God does not ensure the Christians to win always. In any case, man winning a worldly glory is always secondary or may I say trivial, in God’s sight (Cf. Matthew 6: 33).  

            Therefore, we can reasonably infer that it’s not God’s primary motive to ensure that true Christians always win.

            We return to the question at hand, which is, would God enable players and teams to win? Because God is sovereign, HE is involved in everything that happens in the universe - world cup soccer included. I mean, for any righteous reason, if the sovereign God does not want a particular team or a person to win, then by no means would that team or that player can win.

            Although a player may or may not believe in God, he cannot win without God’s enablement. Man lives because of God’s enabling presence and power. So from this perspective, we infer that the winners win because of God’s enabling power.

            God gifts man, each one according to HIS will. Cristiano Ronaldo’s earning in 2014 is pegged at $80 million and Lionel Messi’s at $64.7 million.2 These superstars wouldn’t have been superlatively successful without God’s enabling presence.

            But we should concede that only God knows the precise reason(s) for enabling Cristiano Ronaldo to earn more money than Adam Bedell of Columbus Crew who is guaranteed a mere $36, 504 in 2014.3

            Therefore, we may not know why God enabled Ronaldo to be a more successful soccer player than others. But we do know how God enabled him.

            Cristiano Ronaldo’s exceptional skills are the reason he earns more than others. These exceptional skills are God’s gift to Ronaldo. Because God gifts players, some more than the others, we affirm that God enables players and teams to win. 

            But are we sure that God gifts players their exceptional skills? Let’s again consider the Brazilian win of 2002. Many aspects that contributed to that win were out of man’s purview. For instance, had Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho contracted injuries before the finals, similar to the Neymar injury of the present, then they would not have played, and the team may have lost. But that Brazilian team won because all the crucial players were healthy.

            In other words, health is a prerequisite for the expression of skills. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho played because they were healthy. They remained healthy because they were free from accidents and ailments, hence they excelled.

            It’s God who gives man his health and protection. Hence we infer that God is intricately involved in man’s sustenance and success. Therefore, we cannot remove God out of the picture of the 2002 Brazilian world cup win. So God did help Brazilian soccer team to win. 

            Why did God help them to win? What could have been the greater purpose for God in allowing teams and persons to win games?

            If one argues that the purpose for which the 2002 Brazilian soccer team won the world cup was to glorify God in public, then why didn’t they win the world cup in the subsequent years?

            The Brazilian team won the 2002 world cup and 2009 confederations cup, and they promptly displayed their public allegiance to the living God after both their winning performances. So the question as to why they didn’t win the 2006 world cup gains importance. The Brazilians lost in the quarterfinals in 2006. 

            If glorifying God was the primary motive for the 2002 Brazilian triumph, then their losses in 2006 and 2010 seem rather inconsistent to that primary motive. Didn’t God want these players to glorify HIM during the world cups of 2006 and 2010?

            In other words, is God so dependent on man to glorify HIM? It’s true that man should glorify God always, but my question is would God be deprived of something if man fails to glorify God?

            God as a perfect being cannot be deprived of anything, for God’s perfection mandates self-sufficiency. Although man may disappoint God and fail to glorify HIM, God’s purposes and plans would never fail. Hence, God is not dependent on man to glorify HIM always.

            If we term God as Almighty, then by virtue of HIS Almightiness, God cannot be dependent on man for anything, even for man to glorify HIM. So God need not necessarily have ordained a Brazilian win in 2002 for them to glorify HIM before the millions. There could be other reasons best known to God HIMSELF.

            Let’s consider this from another dimension. Does it take greater strength to glorify God after a win or a loss?

            Any Tom, Dick or Harry would be on a holistic high while winning, so all that the winner would need is strong infusion of courage to complement his conviction in God, to glorify God in public.

            On the contrary, the loser would be disappointed and would carry a huge burden and a plethora of questions about his ability, strategy, and future. So the loser would need a greater strength, faith, and courage to complement his conviction in God, to glorify HIM.

            Do remember that we are not discussing the matter of Brazilian win from the perspective of man’s eyes, but we are discussing this from God’s perspective. The question we have asked is why God ordains winners to win. I am thus far arguing that God does not ordain winners to win purely for man to glorify HIM in public.

            So should only winners glorify God and not losers? Does God desire that man glorify HIM when he loses?

            God cares equally about everyone – the winners and losers. God desires everyone to glorify HIM at all times – in success and failures. God desires that winners and losers glorify HIM. But it’s realistic that only an extraordinarily strong person can glorify God during failures.

            In fact, the Bible claims that God’s power is perfected in weakness. Perfected? Do we know what that means? God’s power is fulfilled or accomplished when man glorifies God in his weakness.

            So it does seem to me that God will not enable winners to win only to glorify HIM in public, for God delights more when losers glorify HIM, for that’s when God’s power is perfected.  

            Then why did God ordain the Brazilian win in 2002? The Bible says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Romans 11: 34a, NIV). It’s not for us to know every reason behind God’s action always, unless God so reveals it to us. If God hasn’t revealed it to us, then we may as well be content with the fact that God in HIS love, wisdom and justice, ordains that which HE ordains.

            Finally, what did the Brazilian win of 2002 teach Christians? Do not worry about what may happen to us, but let’s be strong and prepared always to thank and glorify God, irrespective of wins or losses (1 Corinthians 10: 31 & Colossians 3: 17). Sportspeople and mankind in general are to glorify God always – be it in successes or failures.

            I summarize as follows:

            (1) Did God enable the 2002 Brazilian world cup win? Yes.

            (2) Did God ordain a Brazilian win because there were genuine Christians in that team? No.

            (3) Why did God ordain the 2002 Brazilian world cup win? Certainly not because that they were to glorify HIM before millions. In fact, God delights more when losers glorify HIM.

            Last but not the least; we do not know who would win the world cup this year. Even without Neymar, God can enable a Brazilian win. But Brazil may or may not win and it really does not matter in God’s perspective. Christianity is not about worldly success.

            But from our perspective, may the best team win and may God’s name be glorified during wins and losses. 


Anonymous said...

Great article Raj. It is timely and interesting. And really enjoyed the logical exercise too.

sarah said...

Thank you Raj for sharing the thought. It is so true that a true knowledge of God helps us to stay focused even when we fail. But the interesting thing is God says do not try and untangle my ways because we humans cannot. His thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. He is not saying if we try enough, we can, but do not attempt. I have learnt to say, I do not know, but God knows.'
A true knowledge of God helps us to glorify God even when we fail in our effort.
As you rightly said, it is in weakness that God pours put his strength. So different from other world v iews.

Human beings look at success when he moves from point A to point B. His goal is point B. They give testimony at that point. Good.

But God's goal is totally different. For God, point B is only a point. His goal is my travel from point A to point B. That is when my character is formed. It is during this travel that I have failed several times, met with disappointments. It is during these times of weakness that God strengthened me for at that time I was more receptive and humble enough to receive it.

How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable his ways.


Raj Richard said...

Thank you very much, Anonymous. Praise God from whom all blessings flow :)

Raj Richard said...

Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts, Sarah.

Learning to say that I do not know of things that God hasn't revealed, is humility. I fully agree with you.

God bless.