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Euro 2024-Faith, Football & Eternity…

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Amongst the controversy, England have exhibited flashes of inspiration when it matters and now Southgate’s men find themselves in an historic overseas final against a brilliant Spanish team. Bellingham, Kane, Saka and Watkins have noticeably scored vital goals and Pickford has been instrumental in saving them.

Keeping a clean sheet

Few keepers maintain a clean sheet in most of their matches. No goalkeeper retains a perfect record and that is true of all people in all walks of life. The ultimate standard of goal keeping perfection is impossible to achieve because we are human and have our limitations, no matter how safe a pair of hands or trusted our keeper may be.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sin is a term derived from another sport, archery; and its meaning is to ‘miss the mark’ when the arrow drops clumsily falling short of the board.

Handing out the red card

Getting to the root of sin requires a quick journey to the original pitch in Genesis (the Garden of Eden). Adam and Eve were permitted to eat from any of the trees except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Not surprisingly, they ate from that tree and were effectively given the first red card and sent off the pitch and were banished from the garden. You may consider that action unduly harsh. However, the Judge of all the earth who is the perfect referee knew that if they had then eaten from the tree of life, then they would live perpetually in a sinful state, so it was in fact an act of divine mercy.

The perfect referee

Think for a moment. Refereeing is a thankless job, not for the faint hearted and even the most capable referees inevitably make occasional mistakes! Is there such a thing as a perfect referee? Yet without an effective and authoritative referee, a football match will on certain occasions degenerate into an uncontrollable brawl, resembling mob football from previous eras.

Furthermore, without a referee there is no authority or objective means of deciding which side is in the right or wrong and whether a penalty should be given. Without a referee there would be no sense or impartation of justice.

The penalty of sin and the sinless substitute

Still more serious than being given the red card and sent off the pitch, our sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked and blameless though when they fell short, they realised that they were naked, and they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. They were incapable of clothing themselves and provision had to be made. The fig leaf garments were inadequate, so animals had to be killed to provide them with clothing, hence a sacrifice was made.

The Messiah gave Himself as a sacrificial substitute to make atonement and peace with God and rose from the grave. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). Loyal supporters follow their team through thick and thin but who are you trusting and following?

Goals and good works do not earn a ticket to heaven

I remember playing in a six a side tournament when four points were awarded for goals and one for a corner. In professional football however the only way to score is by getting the ball in the back of the net. Corners do not win trophies and even honourable intentions, righteous acts, kindness or even charity; will never earn us a ticket to heaven. Jesus the Messiah taught with great clarity that He is the only way to the Father when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) The referee has the final say and since Jesus is the only person that is sinless and lived a perfect life that we could never attain to, we must recognise His heavenly authority.

Regret, remorse, and repentance

Some players unashamedly show neither regret after jumping in with both feet, nor remorse after committing reckless career ending fouls. Regret involves being sorry for our actions and remorse speaks of our sorrow, but repentance is turning away from our sinful lifestyle, confessing our sins, and turning towards God. God requires everyone to repent (Acts 17:30). Repentance involves a change of thought and direction and turning to God and trusting in Him.

Extra time

There is a day of judgement appointed unto man (Hebrews 9:27) so it is vital that we seriously consider eternal matters. Unlike extra time, the next life shall continue forever and ever and will never end. There is a time for every purpose under heaven, God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:1-10), and it is time to seek the Lord. It is never too late to turn to the Lord and trust in Him.

Qualification for Euro 2024 was subject to progressing though the qualifying stages. Qualification for heaven is not achieved through what we do through our efforts but by grace through faith in what the Son of God has done. Heaven is not for ‘good people’ but for forgiven individuals who are trusting in the Lord and not in themselves.