Soccer + Scripture #Assisting (Part 4)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

Growing up in the northeast part of England my friends and I would often find ourselves playing soccer on any surface possible. Grass or concrete, flat or uneven—it never mattered. We simply played for the love of the game.

As a child, all I wanted was the glory of scoring the goals that won the game. Back then I would imagine myself having the finishing qualities of one of the greatest English goal scorers of all time, Gary Lineker. I would try my best to replicate his finishing ability combined with his “sixth sense” of positioning. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

As I grew, I tried to couple these attacking qualities with what I saw introduced by a new legend of the game, Thierry Henry. In August 1999 Arsenal paid Juventus an estimated fee of £11 million for this mercurial French winger. It wasn’t long before he was converted into Arsenal’s main striker and netted 175 goals for the club. It’s hard to suggest that there has there been a greater forward in the Premier League era than this brilliant architect of the modern game. Henry had the ability to glide across the pitch like a gazelle and calmly slot the ball past the goalkeeper. He was coolness personified.

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Alas, I never did make it anywhere close to their finishing standards. I came to realize that my own personal strengths on the field lay in the position behind or to the sides of the strikers. Practicing daily to use both feet to supply a pass that would split a defense or create a goal scoring opportunity from a crossing position became “my game.” I started to study different kinds of players—like Glenn Hoddle, who could pass a ball around the corner of a brick wall and still find the intended recipient. I analyzed the terrific David Beckham’s ability to cross the ball from wide areas and land it on a dime. Recently, the great Mesut Özil has captured my attention with his 180 assists in 449 games, and a passing accuracy rate of 86%. This is, simply put, incredible. Midfielders may not get the obvious glory that the striker gets for scoring goals, but without assists there are no goals.

It is much the same in our own personal walk with Jesus. The longer I walk with Him the more I realize that the moments of “glory” don’t belong to me, but to God. The desire to be the leader or the hero is strong in all of us but that desire does not serve us well. Jesus Himself modeled what true leadership should look like. Luke penned these words about Jesus in the opening verse of Acts,

“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”

I love this about Jesus’ style of leadership. He was never the overlord who dictated to people what to do, but He first set the example by doing, and then He taught us. Jesus could never be accused of seeking His own glory in leadership. He taught us that servant leadership is the best form of leadership. The kind of leadership that requires us to be humble and not self-seeking of personal advancement. The aim has always been to assist others.

Furthermore, servant leadership doesn’t demand recognition. In Matthew 6 Jesus told us not to practice our righteousness in front of others so that you will be noticed. He went on to warn that to do so forfeits our reward from the Father. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, believed that Christians should do all things wholeheartedly, not just those actions that can be seen. He reasoned, “As our Father makes many a flower to bloom unseen in the lonely desert, let us do all that we can do, as under His eye, though no other eye ever take note of it.”

Assisting others may never be noticed by others, but God is watching and keeping an account.

In the Gospel of John, we see one of the greatest examples of being a servant leader when we read that Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. As He arose from supper and laid aside His garments, washed their feet and wiped them dry, Jesus taught us how not to seek our own glory but rather how to serve one another in love. In a time and age that tells children and youth that they have to be number one, the Word of God teaches us to assist others. Only then can we become great leaders for the Kingdom of God.

**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story

Soccer + Scripture #Teamwork (Part 3)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

In soccer, like most sports, there are many ways to approach a game. A wide spectrum of tactics and play styles are available, and coaches like to develop their own philosophy about the game. They are often determined to select a style of play that will both define them and their team. All the time hoping and praying that their particular brand of soccer will bring success. But here’s what is interesting: seldom do you find a style of play that highlights just an individual player. Usually teamwork is the thing that is both emphasized and regarded in high esteem.

There have been several “soccer philosophies” throughout the years. A team from England called Wimbledon had a meteoric rise from non-league soccer to winning the oldest domestic cup competition in the world—the F.A. Cup. Their philosophy was what we call the “long ball.”  Simply thump the ball up field to your attacker and then bust a gut trying to support him. It often caused chaos, but that was often the key to its effectiveness. In the mid-90’s Everton FC had a rather low-skilled squad, but with plenty of heart. Managed by Joe Royle, this team fought for each other, and were affectionately labeled “The Dogs of War”. This ethos of teamwork characterized the entire team and resulted in them claiming the F.A. Cup in 1995. And then we have what is probably the greatest soccer style—when executed correctly—the short quick passing along the ground. Whether that is Brian Clough’steams of the 70’s that believed the “ball travels faster than the man” or the Johan Cruyff inspired Barcelona of the new millennium with their “Tiki-Taka” one touch soccer. When a team is moving the ball along the ground at pace, it is poetry in motion. Not to mention expending less manpower because you are playing smarter rather than harder.

Soccer + Scripture | Undeterred.net

All these strategies about good game play remind me of what King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

Similar to the previously mentioned soccer tactics, we should endeavor to not work in silos. When we are determined to achieve a result by our own effort, while rejecting the help of others, we place ourselves in a poor position. Like the “Dogs of War,” the power in supporting teammates, friends or colleagues produces unbelievable victories. We can help each other through some difficult circumstances and pick each other up when we fall. It is the same with “Tiki-Taka” play style. You can conserve so much energy, last longer, go further and finish stronger. It is like that old African proverb,

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Teamwork is of vital importance in our Christian walk. We were not designed to be alone or work alone. We cannot succeed as the lone star of the team—we must work together.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

As you are parenting or mentoring a child to be a great team player, remind them that teamwork requires people to work cooperatively with others towards a shared purpose.

  • Talk about how great it feels to be a part of a team, and how upsetting it is to be excluded. Then encourage your child to look for those who are often left out and make sure they are invited.
  • Being competitive is admirable, but being a great sport and having a positive attitude in any situation is a great way to be a good witness to teammates and onlookers.
  • Practice teaming up by working on a project together at home—it could be artwork that everyone contributes to, planting a garden or coming up with a service project.
  • Play a board game in teams.
  • Organize a friendly game in your yard or park and have a chat beforehand on what it takes to be a good team and how each player can achieve excellent teamwork. Then extol it when you see it!

**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story

Soccer + Scripture #Goalkeeping (Part 2)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

Recently, the Juventus and Italian national goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon set a new record when he went 947 minutes without conceding a goal. Anybody familiar with the game of soccer or who has played it knows what a phenomenal achievement this is. It is made even greater by that fact that Gigi (as he is affectionately known) at the age of 38 is no spring chicken. After the game, he penned a love letter to the goal he has guarded for more than a quarter of a century. Here is the letter:

“I was 12 when I turned my back on you, denying my past to guarantee you a safe future. I went with my heart; I went with my instinct. But the day I stopped looking you in the face is also the day that I started to love you. To protect you. To be your first and last line of defense. I promised myself that I would do everything not to see your face again. Or that I would do it as little as possible. It was painful every time I did, turning round and realizing I had disappointed you. Again and again. We have always been opposites yet we are complementary, like the sun and the moon. Forced to live side by side without being able to touch. Team-mates for life, a life in which we are denied all contact. More than 25 years ago I made my vow: I swore to protect you. Look after you. A shield against all your enemies. I’ve always thought about your welfare, putting it first even ahead of my own. I was 12 when I turned my back on my goal. And I will keep doing it as long as my legs, my head and my heart will allow.”[1]

Beautiful, isn’t it? The line that stuck out to me was, “I swore to protect you. Look after you. A shield against all your enemies.” Such an emotional letter written to an inanimate object! If the recipient of the letter were “the heart” instead of “the goal”—it would read very differently!

Soccer + Scripture | Undeterred.net

In the Book of Proverbs we are told, “Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it spring the issues of life.” The school my children attend thought this Scripture so important that they declared it the theme for the entire school year. The headmaster’s desire is for the children to embrace the concept of guarding their hearts against things that come to oppose them.

We would do well to guard our heart like a goalkeeper protects his goal. Nothing causes a goalkeeper more pain and disappointment than picking the ball out of the back of the net. It’s one of the most horrific feelings in soccer. It carries with it a tinge of embarrassment and shame for failing to protect the thing that is most important in the game.

 

Among a generation that has no regard for what is bombarding and damaging their supple hearts, we must train up our children through prayer and the Word of God to guard their hearts. The enemy will attack them in this crucial spot. 1 Peter 5:8 advises us to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” As we are training up our children, we must coach them to be like a goalkeeper and guard that which is the most precious to them.

Look up the following verses as a family and choose one to display in a meaningful place in your home and memorize together.

**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story

Soccer + Scripture #Freekicks (Part 1)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

In soccer everyone loves a great free kick. That moment of anticipation between the player’s foot striking the ball and the net of the opponent’s goal bulging like an old onion bag. Whether it is watching David Beckham bend the ball into the top corner,Cristiano Ronaldo’s gunslinger pose before striking a ball that dips unexpectedly, Zlatan Ibrahimović cracking the ball so hard it is like watching Thor unleash his hammer or Roberto Carlos defying physics with his banana weaving heat seeking missile, we all love a great free kick.

But sometimes, in anticipation of the attacker booting a good ball toward the goal and praying it finds the back of the net, we forget to factor in…THE WALL.

If you watch closely you will often see the goalkeeper screaming at his defenders to make a strong wall; usually waving his fingers in the air to indicate how many players he wants strategically lined up in front of the net. Why? Because this defensive formation is paramount to whether or not the opposing team will be able to score. And nothing drives the strange species of sportsman we call “keepers” to lose their decorum like a ball flying through a gap in the wall and whacking the back of their net.

Undeterred.net | Soccer + ScriptureA Gap in your wall is a terrible thing. Proverbs even warns against the dangers of this exact scenario.

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.—Proverbs 25:28

As parents, we do everything we can from birth to keep our precious child safe. We put up baby gates and install cabinet locks and outlet covers until they can safely navigate and make safe choices on their own. The same vigilance applies to keeping our children spiritually safe. Until they are able to do it themselves, we must build up strong walls of prayer.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. –Colossians 4:2

So many times in God’s Word we are commanded to be diligent and faithful, constantly in prayer. When we fail to do so, we have gaps in our walls. And it won’t be long before the opposing team finds that gap and exploits it.

We need to make sure that we are standing in the gap in prayer on behalf of our children, teaching them to pray without ceasing so they can fortify their own walls.

It is imperative that we raise the next generation as children who pray so that they will grow into adults who love to pray and recognize the critical importance of prayer. Model and encourage prayer at home and in every situation. Make sure their wall is strong and if there are gaps, stand firm together with them in those gaps. Keep the wall strong so the enemy has no opportunity to break through and score against us.

**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story