My sixteen-year old daughter Beth has recently completed a training course to qualify as a football (soccer) referee. Before she can be considered fully qualified she is required to referee six matches. As father and chauffeur I get to watch Beth in action. I have watched her for many years as a player, but the challenge of being the referee for an under-13 boys match was very different.

I was impressed that Beth was up late reading through her training notes on the night before the match. As we drove the 14 miles to the football pitch she continued to look through her notes, while telling me she did not want to be a referee. When we arrived Beth checked the pitch, organised linesmen, spoke to the teams, tossed a coin and got the match underway. I watched as she competently handled the team managers, the players, and the parents. Beth quickly discovered that she needed to have eyes everywhere, taking in information at different levels and making snap judgements and decisions. When a boy went down in the penalty box his team and supporters wanted a penalty. Beth hesitated briefly then told them to play on, having assessed that no foul had taken place.

Beth did a great job in her first match as a referee overcoming all the challenges she faced because she prepared well, and because of her commitment to succeed. She also knew that her father was watching with deep pride, willing her on. Our heavenly Father is watching everything we do. But so often we are disorganised, we plan poorly, and things go wrong. We act foolishly by failing to assess situations, and we let everyone know when we are doing something that we’d rather not. God doesn’t call us to be sloppy followers of Jesus. He expects us to train, to read and re-read His manual (the Bible) and He wants us to live out our lives in a spirit of excellence. Just like Jesus did.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4: 4-8 NIV).