Right now the world’s most consuming interest is not any major political, economic or other international crisis currently prevailing on Planet Earth, but the game of football! It is estimated that when Brazil play Croatia in the opening game of the World Cup Finals in Brazil the world-wide TV audience will exceed two billion people – the eyes of close to one in three of the world’s population will be glued to their TV screens. And I will be one of them!
Just four weeks later on the 13th July, the thirty-two national teams that made it to the World Cup Finals will have been reduced to just two. When those two teams walk out on to the pitch it is confidently estimated that they will be participating in the most watched live event in the history of the world!
It will be an amazing spectacle – but it will also be a great and a terrible day at the same time. And the difference between whether or not it is a great or a terrible day depends solely on which side you’re on! It will be a great day for the winners, but it will be a terrible day for the losers – to have got so far, only to fall at the final hurdle will be a devastating experience. But this is only a game – and in four years time all the teams can try again to capture the most prized trophy in world football.
But one day there will be a different sort of great and terrible day – that isn’t ‘only a game’. The Old Testament ends with the prophet Malachi looking forward to the coming of the Messiah when “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). And then Malachi looks beyond the first coming of the Messiah, to what he describes as “the day of the Lord” when the final whistle will blow on the stage of time and for those who are on the Lord’s side, who already have eternity in their hearts, it will be a great and wonderful day.
We don’t have to fight to win the trophy – the battle has already been fought and won at Calvary, nearly two thousand years ago. If we are on His side and are known by Him, then we can enjoy all the joys of His victory over the evil one and go in through the doors which will be wide open for all who have joined the winning side before the final whistle goes!
But for those who have rejected the Messiah and His lordship over their lives, it will indeed be a terrible day. There will be no coming back in four years time to have another go. The doors of time will be closed. Jesus expressed this shocking truth in that most graphic of parables in Matthew 25:1-13, when He spoke to the five virgins who were clamouring for the door to be re-opened for them, and said, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”
So, if you are one of those who will be joining me in watching some or all of the World Cup Finals, I pray that you will allow the Lord to use this event to challenge your spirit about the urgency of sharing the Gospel with those who are not yet known by the Saviour.
For those who don’t know Him, the day of the Lord will indeed be a terrible day. But for those who know and are known by Him it will be the most wonderful day there could ever be – and the victory celebrations will stretch throughout eternity!