About 15 years ago, American Samoa played a soccer match and lost 31-0. It’s still a record score for an international soccer game. At that stage they were ranked stone last on the FIFA world rankings. The amazing thing is that the soccer world felt embarrassed for them, but the team that suffered this humiliating defeat saw it differently. They were passionate about their sport, they had the most amazing team spirit and their faith was the most important thing in their lives.
Denzel Washington once gave a speech at a graduation ceremony and he started by saying: “Always put God first.” He is an amazing actor, yet that is not the most important thing in his life. It’s very important, but it’s not the most important thing. In the same way, soccer formed an integral part of their lives but it wasn’t the most important thing. They desperately wanted to win but not at all costs. For them it was more important to make sure that their relationship with God and with one another was in place. The amazing thing is that it was exactly that, that changed their results on the soccer field. They started winning because they knew what was really important in life. They made sure that the important things in life were in place, and then they followed their passion. It took a lot of work. It took years of huge losses, but they kept working hard and they were always willing to learn.
A few years after that record loss, they won their first international match. And then another and another. By 2015 they had improved their world rankings by almost 50 places.
You see, we all have passions. And that’s great because without passion we can die while we are alive. The important thing is that we realise what the Samoan soccer team knew all along. Our passion and our talent come from God. And if we give priority to the Giver, the gift becomes far more exciting to live out. They were given awards for progress, but their true reward came from God.