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World Cup dreams and a hope to rely on

Date posted: 03/07/18

World Cup dreams and a hope to rely on

 

The 2018 World Cup has already given us so much. One of the biggest sporting events on the planet is gripping fans as the world's best teams compete for the coveted trophy in Russia. When you consider the global interest the World Cup generates as well as the joy and celebration it can elicit, it is easy to see why football is widely known as the beautiful game.

The World Cup has conjured up historic moments that live long in the memory like Brazil’s epic team goal in 1970, Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ in 1986 and Robin van Persie’s Salmon-like diving header in 2014. Because so many people watch these events unfold around the globe, they provide a real sense of shared experience that fans can reflect on, even if their team didn’t quite hit the heights on the pitch.

One of the standout experiences is that each World Cup begins with bags of hope and expectation, particularly if you follow one of the ‘bigger’ teams like England. This time, they’re going to do it, all those years of failure will be supplanted by one glorious, successful campaign! And even when current form suggests that hope is really thin, it can be hard not to soak up some of it as your team kick off. However, by the time the group stages end, the hopes of 16 teams will have disappeared as they exit the World Cup and their fans ponder a myriad of ‘what if’ questions.

World Cup dreams and a hope to rely on

 

Our English word ‘hope’ so often conveys vague optimism for the future like my team winning the World Cup. But when we go back to the Greek of the New Testament, we see hope in a different light. The noun ‘elpis’ or verb ‘elpizo’ are usually translated into English as hope, but their meaning contains a sense of trusting and waiting with confidence.

Of course, this issue of hope goes far wider than sport. One theme frequently noted by social commentators today is that in the West this type of ‘sure hope’ is in short supply. Increasingly, as we look to the future we feel a sense of uncertainty, even foreboding. Into this context ‘sure hope’ is a valuable commodity.

And while we can never be totally confident of our team winning the World Cup, there is a ‘hope’ we can be sure of if we’re trusting in Jesus. A hope of heaven and an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade as 1 Peter 1 v 4 puts it.

When Jesus meets two of his followers on the Emmaus road in Luke 24, we are told that they were kept from recognising them. They were heading away from Jerusalem where they had been part of the group of believers and now appear to have lost the hope they had. When asked what they are discussing, they reply in verses 19 to 21 of the NIV: “About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

World Cup dreams and a hope to rely on

 

They described their hope as something they had before, in the past tense - that ‘elpis’ confidence is now lost. But what happens next is awesome. Jesus says how foolish these men had been not to believe what was written about Him in the scriptures and after giving them the most amazing Bible study and breaking bread with them, Luke tells us: “their eyes were opened and they recognised Him”. Suddenly, their hope, which had turned to despair, is restored and they powerwalk it back to Jerusalem to let the disciples know Jesus is alive.

That is the difference Jesus makes. He provides the hope we can be confident in. The writer to the Hebrews sums it up pretty well in chapter 11 v 1 (NIV): “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

There is nothing wrong with having optimism as a football fan. And as an England supporter, I would love to see them lift the trophy on 15th July, but there is no certainty in this outcome. Let’s enjoy the World Cup, but rejoice in the ‘elpis’ hope found only in Jesus.

Reach out

Visit sportsmissionpack.co.uk to download our free collection of resources to help share the gospel during the World Cup

 

Ed MezzettiEd Mezzetti, City of York Athletic Club

Ed runs for City of York Athletic Club and is Digital Content Manager for Christians in Sport. He is a member of St Thomas' Church, York