I’m not much of a football fan but will watch the games on television to be with my husband. We both notice how often a player will indicate thanks to God when they score. Some of them even kneel briefly to pray.
Participants in other sports do this too, to varying degrees. Of course I wonder what they are thanking Him for—that they are winning? Or that they are playing well?
When our granddaughter’s team is playing soccer, I’ve often prayed for them too. At first I wanted them to win, mostly because I’m a biased grandmother, but partly because they generally play fair against teams that are coached to play differently. I hate to see bruisers win and the bruised lose. After a few seasons of that, I decided the best way to pray is to ask God to do whatever gives Jesus the most glory.
Part of that comes from hearing a story about the world religious leaders gathering to pray during a major world conflict, the second Great War if my memory is correct. What stood out for me is that while most of them prayed for victory over enemy forces, one man prayed (and this was not lightly) that God would do whatever brought His Son the most glory.
The other reason for my prayer comes from Joshua 5:13-14. Joshua was about to lead God’s people into the promised land. Jericho was the first city that they must conquer. As he thought about what lie ahead, he had a visitor.
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, ‘Are You for us or for our adversaries?’
“So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’”
Most commentaries say this Man was a Christophany, or pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. He came as the Angel (messenger) of the Lord as a man. Joshua seemed to know that, as indicated by his reverent worship and quick willingness to obey. This was no ordinary angel.
What I find instructive is Joshua’s question and the Man’s answer. Joshua wanted to know whose side He was on, and the Man simply said, “No.”
The Lord doesn’t pick sides. He has His own side, or His own plan, if you will, His own agenda. He works for whoever will bring to pass that plan and against those who oppose it.
One of Israel’s prophets (whose ministry happened much later), Habakkuk, found this to be true also. When God revealed to him that He was going to use enemy armies to chasten and change His own people, Habakkuk was greatly distressed. However, he accepted God’s decision. He said, “O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years . . . In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2)
At the end of his Old Testament book, Habakkuk offered a declaration of faith, saying, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”
Trusting in the Lord isn’t about winning games, or even playing my best. It isn’t about full cupboards and full bank accounts, or even a full life. It is about relying on Him no matter what happens, knowing that He is able to work everything together for my good, but also His good, His good and perfect will.
As for the football game, I cannot see what He is doing, nor why the Stamps need to whip the Eskimos to make it happen. It is for me (and even the Calgary fans who are Christian) to trust Him, no matter what happens on that playing field.