I want to share a story with you that a few of you may even relate to. This is a story about a football manager and his players.
Now first of all, I just want to get a gauge of how successful you’ve been in your footballing life. Have you ever scored a goal? Assisted a goal? Have made a tackle or a save?
In fact, every single reader who has played football should be able to answer yes to these questions, because every single one of you has played a part in your teams success in your footballing life.
Now, how many of you have never made a single mistake on the football pitch? If every shot you have had has been a goal. If every pass you have played has found the right player. If every tackle you have gone for has been completed? I take it we’re not answering yes to these questions any more!
This is the story of a manager that demanded perfection from his players. He wanted every shot his strikers had to be goal and every shot his keepers faced to be a save. He wanted every header to be won, and every pass to be completed. He wanted perfection.
Now, in real life, this simply can’t happen. We all make mistakes. When you look at the pass completion stats, even Iniesta fails to have 100%. When you look at goals to shots ratio’s, even Messi misses from time to time.
The manager called his players into his room, and told them his plans for perfection. They all looked at one another, a little confused. They were all good players, with great stats, and couldn’t understand the manager’s way of thinking. Worse than this, the manager revealed the consequence to them; unless they achieved perfection, they were all going to have their contracts terminated.
Each player reacted in a different way. The first player lost faith in the manager. “He has no idea what he’s talking about”, he grumbled, “You know what, forget him. I’m going to do what I want. I’ll play my game, take my shots, play my passes, and who cares if I make mistakes. He can’t tell me what to do”.
The second player considered a different approach. “You know, I’m not so bad. Well, not as bad as some of the other players in my position. If I point out every time they make a mistake, perhaps the manager will overlook my mistakes. I don’t make nearly as many as them!”
The third player went straight to the training field. “I have to work! The harder I train, the better I’ll get. The coach is right, I do miss too many shots, and I do misplace too many passes. Maybe if I get even better, he’ll just forget that he wants perfection. Surely he just wants us all to be a little better!”
The fourth player went to the pitch and sat in the middle of the centre circle. “It’s over”, he thought, “In my own strength, there is nothing I can do to achieve perfection; literally nothing”.
If you’ll forgive me for interrupting the story at this pivotal half way stage, I want to draw some parallels. This story is a metaphor for spiritual life. Did you know, God is so holy, that He can’t deal with any less than perfection? And while He may not care about our misplaced passes, He definitely cares about our misplaced words, and misdirected anger. In fact, God hates sin. He loves us all, but He hates our mistakes. And when we are honest with ourselves, we all make mistakes.
Now our reaction to this news can be like that of our four players:
Either we think we’re good enough, God is wrong, and we simply don’t care.
Perhaps we look at others, and think its ok, because we aren’t as bad as them.
Maybe we consider that if we do enough good things, God will forget our bad things.
Or maybe a few of us today are feeling like the fourth player…lost, confused, alone. Not quite knowing what it would ever take to please a God who demands perfection.
I’d like to now kick off the second half of the story, because right now, the news is bleak. We’re looking at four footballers who’s contracts are about to be cancelled. None of them have the right idea about how to solve the problem, but maybe the manager himself has a solution.
The manager sat in his chair, and considered an idea. He could always do a bit of a swap; a substitution, if you will. He had a son. Not only did his son play for the team, but his son was the perfect player that he desired all his other players to be. His son never made a mistake, his son never missed a tackle, his son always played the right pass. And when he got in front of goal, he always scored. Perfect.
And this was the manager’s plan: If his son could get the other players to agree to it, they could have his stats sheet, and he’d take theirs. Of course, the manager’s son would have his contract cancelled, but in exchange, those players would have his son’s perfect stats; the perfect swap.
So the manager sent his son to each of the players. The son approached the first player. “What do you want?!” the first player moaned.
“To make a trade”, the son said. “My dad has said you can keep your contract. All you have to do is agree to take my stats sheet. It’s all 100%, and I’ll leave the club. All you have to do is accept.”
“No chance!” the first player shot back, “Your father is a fool. I don’t want to play for him anyway. I’m a good player, and if he doesn’t recognise that, we’re better off apart”.
The son approached the second player, and again, shared his father’s idea of the trade.
“Well, that’s all well and good, but just look at all these other players! They’re useless! They’ll get the chop far sooner than me! I’ll be alright! I’m a good player!”
The son went to the third player, again, sharing the manager’s idea of the trade.
“Well, that’s very generous of you, but don’t worry about it! I’m working hard, and I’ll be fine! I have no doubt your dad will be so impressed by my efforts, he’ll be lenient with me!”
This was not going how the son had planned; not at all. That’s when he stumbled upon the fourth player, sitting quietly in the centre circle. He looked up, recognising the manager’s son instantly. “Ah, it’s good to see you. I was hoping to bump into you. Did you hear what happened?”
“Yes”, said the manager’s son, “But my dad has come up with an idea; a trade.” The manager’s son explained his idea.
“So you’re telling me”, the fourth player said, “that I don’t have to do anything. I just have to accept his offer, and I can keep my contract”.
“Exactly,” said the manager’s son, “and here’s the kicker: Whether you accept the offer or not, my contract will be terminated anyway. However, the more people that accept the offer, the better, right?”
Let’s pause the story for a moment, and consider what God is saying to us through this story. God is saying that He knows that we will never be perfect. However, because He loves us so much, He is willing to trade His son’s perfection for our imperfection. And it is not dependant on how good or bad we are, it is not dependant on how hard we try or how hard we work, the only thing we have to do is accept the offer.
The key message of this story is that God is full of grace! What that means is, that there is nothing we can do that is so bad that God will love us any less. And equally, there is no work or efforts we can make that will make God love us any more. The only condition of God’s grace is that we accept that we make mistakes, that we accept that God’s son, Jesus, was perfect and that He took our consequence when He died on the cross. In return, God will see us as perfect, the way Jesus was, and we can have a relationship with Him.
The story of the manager’s son does have an ending. However, I cannot tell you whether the fourth player accepted the manager’s offer. That’s because that fourth player, is you.
You have a choice to accept the manager’s offer. You have a choice today to hear this message and get right with God. We learnt in this story that there is nothing we can do in our own power to get right with God. However, if we believe that Jesus died in our place, for our mistakes, God will forgive us, and we can enter into a relationship with Him, because He loves us. Right now, God is asking you if you will make that choice for Him.
Wherever you are, bow your head, close your eyes, or do whatever it is you do to quieten your heart and focus on God, and just consider the message you have just read.
If you want to respond to that challenge, and accept God’s grace, pray this prayer:
I thank you that you are a gracious God,
I thank you that nothing good I do can make you love me more,
And I thank you that nothing bad I do can make you love me less.
I thank you that you take me just as I am.
I want to say sorry for the times I have made mistakes,
The times I haven’t been perfect, and the times I have not done the right thing,
I thank you that you can forgive me.
I welcome you into my life now,
Help me to do what is right,
As I turn away from what I know is wrong,
I ask all these things in your Son, Jesus’ name,
If you prayed that prayer for the very first time, and you want to talk to someone more about what that means, or maybe what you should do next, please contact us through the website, on our Facebook page, or through Twitter – One of our Kick London staff, will contact you, and assist you with any questions you may have. Perhaps even speak to the person who introduced you to Kick London, the person who shared this blog, or the Kick London coach that you know. But if you prayed that prayer for the first time, be sure to speak to a Christian influence in your life, and be open about the decision you have just made!
God bless you, and thanks for reading!