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The World Cup 2014: how to win over fear

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Germany players celebrate with their trophy after winning the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples)

A sellout crowd of 79,000 watched Sunday’s World Cup final from the Rio de Janeiro stadium, while a billion people watched around the globe.  As the world knows, Germany’s Mario Götze blocked the ball with his chest and then hit a left-footed shot past Argentina’s goalkeeper Sergio Romero, sending Germany to its fourth World Cup title.

Germany won World Cups in 1954, 1974, and 1990, competing as West Germany.  In 1986, Argentina defeated Germany 3-2; Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 four years later in Rome.  However, before Germany’s 2014 victory, no team had ever crossed the Atlantic and won a World Cup.

The winning goalkeeper said, “We’re going to celebrate for at least five weeks.”  By contrast, one of the losing players said, “the pain will be for life.”

I found their comments interesting and reminiscent of what was said during the recent Wimbledon tennis championship.  When Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer to win the title, commentators remarked on their differing motivations.  Djokovic, they said, is like most outstanding athletes in that he is motivated primarily by a fear of failure.  By contrast, they said, Federer is unusual in that he loves to win more than he hates to lose.

I remember a sports column written years ago on the motivations of world-class athletes.  The writer interviewed the greatest athletes of the day—Michael Jordan, Larry Byrd, Magic Johnson, and so on.  Every one said that he was driven by a desire not to lose.  For example, Larry Byrd told of a high school basketball coach who warned him that somewhere there was a player working harder and practicing longer, and that Larry would one day lose to him in a game.  That thought moved Byrd to get to practice early and stay late, working harder than anyone else—all because he was afraid to lose.

It’s been said that we’re all motivated by fear, guilt, or hope.  Of the three, fear can be the strongest and most compelling emotion.  But there’s no end to fear.  As soon as you win the game, you fear losing the next one.  When you achieve your goal, close the deal, or achieve the position you’ve always wanted, immediately you fear losing what you’ve just gained.  Success is never enough for long.

What does God say about fear?

  • “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
  • “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
  • “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
  • “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear” (Psalm 27:1).
  • “Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

What are you afraid of losing?  Make Jesus the Lord of that fear, trusting him to redeem it for his glory and your good.  John, Jesus’ best friend and eyewitness to his execution, remembered 60 years later: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Jesus loves you so much that he would choose to be crucified again just for you.  If you are trusting his love to purchase your eternal salvation, can you trust his love to redeem your fears today?

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