IMMEDIATE 22.00 hrs Monday 21st August 2006
The astonishing result of the fourth and final Test Match between England and Pakistan came after an extraordinary prayer from the leader of a prominent Christian group that God would 'judge' the Pakistan team for their attempt to promote Islam during the Test series.
During the first Test Match, much was made of the communal Islamic faith of the
team, their five-times-a-day prayer sessions and how Yousuf Mohammed's conversion from Christianity to Islam had helped his batting. The National Director of Christian Voice, prayed that God would judge the
team for their promotion of Islam in this Christian nation. Incredibly,
lost the second Test by an innings and promptly lost the Third as well. But what would happen in the final Test? Before it started, Stephen Green penned a short piece for the Christian Voice newsletter. The final paragraph concluded:
'What will happen at the Oval? Will
be further humbled, or will they pick up a crumb of comfort in a win? We could even sense some of God's heart for our nation in the result. How much mercy is He extending to us? What is He saying about the prospects of the very real threat of Islam? Am I looking for too much in a cricket match? Perhaps, but I know what I shall be praying for.'
Stephen Green said today:
'No-one could have predicted that the final test would end with
failing to take the field and forfeiting the match for the first time in Test history. I have a feeling that the way in which the umpires handled the initial alleged offence of tampering with the ball, and then the massive umbrage
took, claiming they had been humiliated, then humiliating themselves by flouncing around in their dressing room, is the sort of unexpected event which only Almighty God can bring about. Let us not forget, this is the same God who, according to 2nd Chronicles 20, brought Jehoshaphat and his outnumbered army out of
and down to the battlefield only to see that the opposition had fallen out amongst themselves and killed each other.
'I think God is saying that if we Christians place all our trust in Him, show Him our prayer is serious by doing the simple and obvious things which only we can do, we can safely leave the miraculous to Him. God will never fail to surprise us.
'It is a sad day for cricket, to be sure, but the collective madness which gripped the Oval yesterday should encourage Christians that God can always be relied upon to do the unexpected. The way in which
were giving it large about Islam was always asking for trouble from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord, for answering my prayer in such a dramatic fashion.'
Article written by Stephen Green on Tuesday 15th August and published this morning Monday 21st August 2006:
A RELIGIOUS TEST
By Stephen Green
We don't normally pay much attention in Christian Voice to that branch of the entertainment industry known as professional sport, but this summer's test series between England and Pakistan is worthy of mention. I first declare an interest. I admit I have played cricket. My top run-scoring stroke used to be an attempted drive which would inadvertently slice off the edge of the bat and squirt away somewhere behind me.
But I am really thinking of a strange and novel religious dimension. There is always a sense in which international sport is a kind of single combat. We send out either one athlete or a small group to do battle on our behalf, much as the Philistines sent out Goliath and
put David forward. To win reflects honour on the whole nation, in this way of looking at it.
Not, I hasten to add, that the
team are overtly Christian. Only Kevin Pietersen has made any kind of profession of Faith that I know of, and there is one Sikh and, as it happens, a Muslim in the
team. No, it is not
's faith, it is the way in which the
team have flaunted their own team Islamic spirit which has brought a religious dimension to the fore. Batsman Mohammed Yousuf actually converted a year or so ago from Christianity, and was already saying during the first Test at Lords how his batting had improved since his conversion.
After that Test, which petered out into a draw, the media were full of how the whole
team prays together five times a day and how seriously they took their faith. It was beginning to look like Islam versus, at least in the Pakistani's minds,
's Christianity. To our eyes the
's Christian Faith has been secularised almost out of all recognition, and yet it still forms the foundation of these
, and it is not dead yet, by God's grace alone.
So you could not move in the papers and on the Channel 5 television roundup each evening for statements about how the Pakistanis' faith was helping them. It was Islam this and Mohammed that and I was praying, 'Lord, may it please thee to judge these men for their arrogance in this land dedicated to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.' Or words to that effect.
This was without in any way saying
deserved to win. On the night of
's Quarter-Final match in the football World Cup, a group of us were witnessing at the Fairfeld Halls in Croydon at Jerry Springer the Opera. A young drunk came up and wanted to know how we could defend the proposition that God is real when
had just lost to
. In vain we tried to explain it doesn't work like that and that God isn't English. The
football team had not been noted for Bible verses on their shirts, unlike the
rugby sevens team, who went out some years ago with Philippians 4:13 emblazoned right across their substantial chests.
But as it turned out, at the second Test at Old Trafford,
were immediately in trouble and were humiliated by an innings defeat. Could it last? Yes it could. By the grace of God, I believe,
imploded in their final innings at Headingly and lost that match and with it, the series. As a token of how seriously the Pakistan supporters took the match and the faith element of it, England's Muslim bowler, Sajid Mahmood, was actually barracked by the Pakistan supporters last week, and the word 'traitor' was used.
By the time this newsletter reaches our dear members and supporters, the final Test of the series will have been and gone. This article is such a hostage to fortune. At this time of writing, the Series is 2-0 with only one to play. What will happen at the Oval? Will
be further humbled, or will they pick up a crumb of comfort in a win? We could even sense some of God's heart for our nation in the result. How much mercy is He extending to us? What is He saying about the prospects of the very real threat of Islam? Am I looking for too much in a cricket match? Perhaps, but I know what I shall be praying for.