The World Cup: Called to Play, Not Watch

Read: Ezra 10:4 “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”

It is the World Cup season. Watching Saudi Arabia beat Argentina and then Japan win against Germany brings back memories of previous World Cups. I’ve been a fan and follower of the FIFA World Cup since Diego Maradona, with his silky skills in Mexico 1986, mesmerised me as a child.

Throughout my life, I have also had the privilege of being live at three World Cups in 1994, 1998 and 2002. It is such an experience to be in the grounds soaking up the atmosphere of the fans, the chants and the jubilant screaming.

But whether we are watching it on TV or in the stadium, watching is still watching. We are still not participants of the game but mere spectators. We may be “sweating” watching our team lose, but it is still nothing compared to the sweat and pain of the athlete on the field.

We are called to play, not watch

And I believe the Lord is calling us in this season, to be more than spectators in our world. As Christians, we are called to action. We are called to make a difference, and the only way we can do so, is to take part. We are called to play, not watch.

What’s wrong with watching?

A British Journal of Sports Medicine research article claims that “on average, every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.” It’s crazy to know that we live less just by watching more TV. In fact, the more I researched this, the more alarmed I became. Some research findings showed that:

  • Too much screen time can lead to obesity, sleep problems, chronic neck and back problems, depression, anxiety, and lower test scores in children and adults.
  • Snacking while TV-bingeing creates an imbalanced calories-in–calories-out ratio, resulting in “distraction eating” that leads to being overweight
  • High TV viewership is associated with low levels of political and civic engagement
  • TV often becomes a substitute for companionship creating social isolation issues
God intended for us to move, walk, and do.

We humans are not designed to sit idle and watch. Our hours spent watching TV could be better used for living; for ministry, playing games, connecting with people, or even creating something new. God intended for us to move, walk, and do. Jesus walked as he talked, and he very likely taught standing. He moved.

Watching the World Cup for a month is a great activity. But, we need to play the game. So, what can we learn from watching the World Cup and how do we apply them into our own game of life? Here are some key lessons:

Keep celebrating life, regardless of the outcome

In France98, I watched Jamaica play in their sole World Cup appearance. Bob Marley’s boys were trashed by Argentina 5-0. But you will not believe what happened in the stands. As the goals came in, instead of being dismayed, the Jamaican fans were having one big party in the stands. It did not matter that their team was losing badly; they were just enjoying the whole experience. We need to learn to celebrate life, regardless of the situation. Paul calls us in Colossians 1:24 to rejoice at all times, even in suffering. Do we?

It’s all about teamwork, not individual talent

Almost every single World Cup (except Argentina’s win in 1986) was won by team effort, not individual brilliance. As the Christian community in Malaysia, we are called to be “one body and one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4-6), united as one church. When we collaborate together in ministry and in life, we win as a body of Christ. From my personal observation, this is an area we need to work on. There is so much more we can do to support interdenominational ministries, driving God’s purpose together and working in one spirit.

You can’t win if you don’t try

Goals are only scored when you attempt to score one. No matter how amazing your running, dribbling or passing skills are, the only thing that matters is if you kick the ball into the goalpost. The same applies in life. Efforts are great but what really counts is the result. In this year’s World Cup, we saw underdogs Japan and Saudi Arabia beat Germany and Argentina. The first two teams attacked and had a go at scoring goals, leading to 2-1, 2-1 scores. You can’t win by just defending your position. Be proactive. Go forward and attack.

Final thoughts: “You’re up! Just do it”

For this year’s World Cup, Nike released a sensational multiverse ad which has gotten everyone excited. The ad ends with the tagline “You’re up”, calling on viewers to be part of the game too.

Just as the sportswear brand’s tagline “Just do it” is a call for everyone to take action, we as Christians need to “Just shine” as the Light in whatever situation we are in, “Just be the salt” that adds flavour, taste and makes things better and “Just be the city on the hill that cannot be hidden”, enabling everyone to know God’s glory through our lives (Matthew 5:14-16). So, don’t just watch – just do God’s will and work!


Share this article with your friends!


About the Author

Roshan Thiran is the “Kuli” at Leaderonomics and is involved in Wawasan Penabur, Scripture Union and the Global Leadership Network ministries. He speaks globally and writes books on leadership development and has worked for various global MNCs.