It almost seems like just yesterday when the World Cup kicked off.

And yet, as I compose these words, the tournament is now finished, ending off with the most dramatic of finales imaginable.

It was a tournament that was full of surprises and thrills, gripping millions of viewers around the world.

I followed the World Cup every single day it was on, and all around me could see my enthusiasm for the game.

As I was watching the action on the pitch, I was also reminded of the parallels with our own lives, our spiritual journeys and certain biblical truths.

Reflection #1: Life is a rollercoaster with highs and lows

I will make this bold claim about this year’s World Cup final between Argentina and France: it was probably one of the most incredible football matches of this century so far.

In fact, it was the most magnificent sporting spectacle I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in my (admittedly rather short) lifetime.

It was a game that was truly topsy-turvy, very much like a rollercoaster in terms of all the different directions it swung.

There was Messi’s opener, France’s valiant Mbappe-led comeback and the nerve-racking penalty shoot-out.

Both teams experienced high and low points throughout their game, though it was Argentina who were ultimately triumphant while France were left heartbroken.

What’s more, the rollercoaster nature of this World Cup was by no means confined to its final match.

It was also evident in Japan’s stunning victories over Spain and Germany (the winners in the 2010 and 2014 tournaments respectively) in the group stage, South Korea’s last gasp winner against Portugal, and Croatia shocking the original tournament favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals – just to name a few examples.

Likewise, Argentina’s overall trajectory through the tournament, from their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia to their eventual victory in the final, was like a rollercoaster in itself.

Argentina with their hard-earned trophy. Image source: FIFA

The topsy-turvy nature of this World Cup has parallels to our lives.

Life may not necessarily feel as exciting as an action-packed football match, but there are highs and lows that we all go through.

There are triumphs in life we can celebrate and give thanks to God for, as well as struggles that get us down and lead us to ask God why He brought us through them.

The key truth to hold in our hearts and minds when going through the highs or lows in life, is to remember that God who watches over us remains the same.

Therefore, our perspective should be rooted in our faith in the purposes of an eternal God, rather than the temporal circumstances of our lives.

James 4:14 also advises us that we should not obsess too much about what may happen in the future, considering that what will happen on any given today is already uncertain.

So through the triumphs and losses, the highlights and heartbreaks of life, let us rest in the eternal victory that Jesus has won on our behalf!

Reflection #2: Hard work goes further than talent, but you can’t earn everything

For all of Lionel Messi’s magic and Kylian Mbappé’s glitzy skills, they still weren’t what inspired me the most.

It was actually Morocco’s stunning run to the semi-finals, when they became the first nation from the African continent to reach the World Cup’s last four.

En route to the semi finals, they beat several teams who many regarded as more talented and glamorous than them. They defeated Belgium 2-0 in the group stage, overcame Spain on penalties in the Round of 16 and then beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the quarter-final.

What got them that far was heart and hard work, staying disciplined and giving all they have every game – even if they weren’t favourites.

What this showed me is that grit, determination and discipline are more important than talent and reputation.

Building up a level of skill or a formidable reputation will not matter in the end if one does not have strong character, discipline and put in the hard work.

Morocco’s football team receives a hero’s welcome back in Rabat after becoming the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. Image source: FOX Soccer

But hard work only takes us so far. From a gospel standpoint, we know that our salvation comes only by God’s grace rather than by any human effort or merit.

As Isaiah says, our good works are ultimately like filthy rags before a completely perfect and righteous God.

Neither good deeds nor any amount of hard work can earn the forgiveness and grace that Jesus gives us.

In an eternal sense, it wouldn’t really matter how cool we were amongst our peers, or how many possessions or accolades we were able to amass in our lives.

We can serve God by doing our best in whatever situation we are in, striving to do so as if we are serving Him.

Nevertheless, while hard work cannot earn us salvation, being an excellent worker is still something that honours God.

We can serve God by doing our best in whatever situation we are in, striving to do so as if we are serving Him.

Reflection #3: Life can be tough but help is near

The tournament was a physical and mental struggle for the men out there representing their countries and competing on the field.

There were so many instances of these footballers getting hurt to various degrees. Watching a game between England and Iran, I saw Iran’s goalkeeper get concussed after clashing heads with one of his teammates.

That led to him being knocked out for ten solid minutes and having to be subbed off early on in the game. In other games, players would also go down with cramps or knocks.

Putting aside instances of physical discomfort, there was also a lot of mental pressure on these players who had to bear the burden of representing their entire nation and performing in front of large swathes of spectators.

Most of us don’t experience the regular levels of physical discomfort that professional athletes do.

However, we do experience strains, aches and pains on a metaphorical level, moments that can impact us emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It reflects the sad but very evident reality of a fallen world that is filled with hurt and pain.

We would do well to remember that, unlike fans who are really distant from the actual players on the pitch, we have a Saviour who is close to us and who can understand all of the pain and struggles we face.

So in the midst of tough times and moments of hurt and pain, we can and should tap into the most valuable help there is – the abundant love and grace of God!

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

Watching the World Cup was incredibly exciting.

Football is a lot of fun, as are many other sports, whether you are playing or watching them.

But in my view, they are even better when they prompt reflection on the most fundamental spiritual truths that the Bible teaches us.

I pray these reflections from the tournament will bless you!

  1. What are your feelings towards the World Cup?
  2. Which of the author’s three reflections resonated with you, and why?
  3. What is one practical thing you are inspired to change about your approach to life or faith?