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On Saturday evening the FIFA World Cup Quarter Final between Netherlands and Costa Rica looked like it was about to end in a draw after extra time (the score was 0-0). The match was about to be decided by a penalty shoot-out at the Dutch coach, Louis Van Gaal, took the unprecedented step of substituting his number one goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen, with the taller Tim Krul.

Krul saved two penalties and Netherlands won 4-3.

Van Gaal was vindicated.

I felt really sorry for Cillessen. He had not been told that this was an option, although Krul had been, and you could see disappointment on his face as he was substituted. But to his credit he was fully supportive of his team when the shootout was taking place and when Krul did his second penalty save, winning the match, Cillessen was one of the first to run the length of the pitch to congratulate him. He put the team’s success above his own personal pride and glory.

How do we feel when other people take over from us? It may be because we have stepped down from a role, or it may be that someone in authority has substituted us. Do we want that substitute to succeed for the team or fail to vindicate us and make us look better?

In one of the letters Paul wrote to one of the churches he founded he was facing a situation where the church had split into factions. One group favoured him and another favoured a new up and coming preacher, Apollos. Paul wrote to them (1 Corinthians 3.4ff):

When one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

That’s a team player! For whose glory are you working?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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