When I was little, I played soccer and loved it. Not to brag or anything, but in the third grade, I played an entire game as the only defensive player besides the goalie. Okay, that’s bragging, but that was my peak, so I hope you’ll forgive me. Hah!
Anyway, I remember praying before every game, “God help us win.” I remember, too, feeling a check in my spirit. Deep down, I knew I didn’t deserve to win any more than anyone else. I also knew that it was a little cocky of me to expect God to give my entire team a victory just so I could experience the thrill of victory. I also suspected that God had bigger concerns than which team won a sporting event.
Plus, how could I expect God to help me win when I was constantly doing things that would make that difficult? I kicked the ball out of bounds sometimes. I fouled people. On purpose. (Hey, they didn’t call me “lead foot” because I looked good in a ponytail, you know.) I also dragged a little when I was tired, doing just enough instead of my best.
And what about the other team? Didn’t some of those girls know Jesus, too? Didn’t they want to win also? What made me think my prayer was any more powerful than any of theirs, and who was I to think God would choose me over anyone else?
God chooses Himself. Every time. His glory is the purpose behind every single thing He does or does not do (Isaiah 42:8; 43:7, 21, 25). Sometimes, the way He chooses to go about glorifying Himself falls in line with what we would choose, and sometimes it doesn’t.
If our greatest interest is our own, we are going to get confused sometimes. We will misinterpret what He is doing in the world and why. When things go our way, we will mistakenly assume that God answered our prayers instead of someone else’s and assume that we are more righteous. When things don’t go our way, we will mistakenly believe that evil has won, that God has abandoned us for a while, or that He is not able to grant what we ask.
But when we make God’s purpose, His glory, our own, we will find the peace and joy we used to think could only be found in whatever personal or collective victory we craved. Understanding that His perspective is unique; that He is wise beyond anything we can begin to imagine; that He is not only in control, but the only One worthy of that privilege—He alone is holy, after all—we will do more watching and helping than running ahead and bossing. We will yield ourselves to the service of His will instead of trying to talk Him into doing what we want Him to do the way we want Him to do it.
When the way God chooses to glorify Himself falls in line with how we want things to go, we will praise Him for it instead of getting puffed up, and when the way He chooses to glorify Himself does not fall in line with our will, we will assume that He has something to show us and that we have something more to learn. We will praise Him anyway, if only to ensure that He does receive the glory He always deserves.
It may seem that the world has come unhinged, but God is in control and accomplishing His purpose even now (Ephesians 1:11). In you. In those around you. In the world. For that, you can praise Him, even through tears of anger, frustration, disillusionment, and hurt, and know that none of what you are experiencing is for naught in His hands.
Maybe, going forward, instead of asking God to help us win, we should all just ask Him to make the game count for His Kingdom because when He does, we all win, and those who agreed with His purpose in prayer got to play a small part in the victory.