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Jul9WedWhat can Brazil's heart-breaking World Cup loss teach us about being faithful soldiers? July 9, 2014 by Captain Scott Strissel
I watched the World Cup match between Brazil and Germany yesterday and witnessed what many are calling the worst lopsided game in World Cup history.
- Filed Under:
- Opinion & Critical Thought
It started off quite competitively. Each team was passing and pushing the football into each other's territory, and then something happened. First, the German team scored one goal, and then another, and another, all within the first 29 minutes of play. Before the first and even the second goal, the Brazilian soccer team was running and fighting for the ball. They were pressing and forcing plays. Then it all changed.
Before Germany's third goal, there was fight in the Brazilians' eyes. They were serious about playing the game and, more importantly, they were still serious about winning. But after the third goal, the fight in their eyes had completely evaporated. The effort to press and to win had dissolved as well.
The camera panned into the mostly Brazilian crowd and there were tears and weeping, shock and dismay, sadness and grief. It was visually epic, yet disheartening as well. The Brazilians had been a team with such promise, and now they were floundering--lost, defeated and numb.
The game ended with a historic defeat of 7-1. But the game was truly over before halftime. I knew it and so did those watching in the stands. It was all in the eyes. The fight was there and then it was gone, lost among sunken hearts and defeated souls.
So what does this have to do with Salvation Army soldiers? What could football possibly teach us in the Army? Here's an epiphany that I had while watching this historic match: Satan would love nothing more than for soldiers of the Army to capitulate, to pack it in and walk away from the spiritual battle that we wage. In fact, he attempts to convince us every day to just quit because there is no way of winning.
Has the fight gone out in your eyes?
It was a very sad moment when I knew that it was all over for Brazil. The fight had gone out in their eyes. Similarly, I have seen soldiers who seem to have lost the fight in their eyes. Dare I even say that there are officers in our Army who seem to have lost the fight in their eyes, too. Perhaps, at times, we have believed this lie from the father of lies. Perhaps we have encountered an obstacle in our ministries and we have failed miserably. Perhaps we barely salvaged the burning wreckage that is our pride and dignity, but we have little else to show for our efforts.
There have been times in my ministry when I have felt the burning sting of defeat because soldiers and fellow comrades of the cross have walked away surrendering their uniforms and even their faith. How it hurts the very heart of God when our ranks buckle under such adversities. Has the fight ever gone out in your eyes? Are you nearing that point right now? Perhaps the pressure of an appointment has taken its toll on you. Perhaps it seems that the enemy is winning and you were never capable enough to handle this battle. Perhaps you, as a soldier, have witnessed officers come and go and the corps never seems to get any larger and a community still seems unreached.
Has the fight gone out in your eyes?
Is it really about us winning? Is that all that matters in our Army? Have we hedged our bets solely on statistical success as we covetously look at other ministries that are booming with numeric success? Are we walking around with vacant stares, singing the old battle songs of our Army, while the fight in our eyes is strangely missing? Have we lost a step as we utter the words to “keep in step all the time”?
It was never about how good we look in our uniforms. It was never about how one man and one woman founded such a Movement. It has always been about faithfully allowing God's holy presence to prod and to prompt us into action. It has always been about God's glory and never about our glory. It has always been about God's victory, not our victory, though we share in his mighty triumph.
Somewhere along the way, perhaps we lost that fight in our eyes because we lost sight of him. Perhaps somewhere along the pathway of duty we became so focused on “meeting human needs” and worrying about public perceptions that we forgot the “in his name" part of our mission. I do not mean to say that human needs are not important, but if we do these things without the passion and fight of Christ behind them, we might as well become just another charity without a mission and a heavenly aim.
I have seen that look in those footballers' eyes in many places in our Army. I have seen them in local officers who have served faithfully for years yet question if they have produced enough fruit for the kingdom. I have seen them in the tired eyes of officers who, after long days of raising money at Christmas kettles, come into corps where a spirit of dissension and sin has become rampant. I have witnessed that look in the eyes of battle-weary employees who wonder how many more days they can make it as the need never seems to end. I have even seen that look in the eyes that stare back at me in the mirror from time to time.
Dear soldier, do not buy the lie from the father of lies. Don't allow his cunning words and slippery speech to invade your hearts. There will be days when we see defeat. There will be moments where we feel like packing it in. We may even consider walking away from it all--but don't. For what really matters is faithfulness first to our God, no matter where that takes us and with whom.
Are you prepared to fight on despite the opposition's taunting? Are you ready to get back on your knees and wage a spiritual battle that involves more than just our human gifts, abilities and talents? The battle truly does belong to the Lord! If you have exchanged the victorious look of a soldier for that of defeat then get back your knees. Without our humility, supplication and penitence we will be nothing more than a hollow uniform taking up space in a slowly diminishing corps hall.
Soldiers of our Army, get back into the fight! Pray in earnest for God's victory. It has never been about what we can do, but what the Holy Spirit can do through selfless servants of the cross. Do not give up and do not listen to Satan's lies. Face Christ and embrace his victory. Look into the enemy's eyes and declare, "The world for God!”
Captain Scott Strissel is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.