Are you a ‘winner?’ How do you know?
When I watch my Patriots play, I know when they win. How? The score! The team with the most points on the scoreboard wins! When the Pats take the field, they perform with the purpose of raising that score – touchdowns are the only thing that matter. Each player knows why he is on the field, is trained for his position. Only a win brings celebration. Brave smiles and words about ‘playing well’ are offered up postgame by losing teams, but everybody knows that winning is the real issue. In kindergarten, they hand out ribbons to everyone. It may make a small child have a happy day, but it will not be very long before he knows the difference between winning and losing.
Paul lived his Christian life with a definite purpose- to win! “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26, NLT) Before you decide to be offended that I would seem to approve of cut-throat competition, read on. There is nothing wrong with desiring to win. The issue is how one defines the ‘win.’
Some are convinced that winning in life is all about wealth. Remember hearing this? “He who does with the most toys, wins!” No doubt about it, wealth generally allows for a better quality of life and increases the amount of opportunities in life. However, rich and poor alike, eventually come to the end of the race and leave this world on level ground. Others are sure that winning is about arranging life in a way that assures their happiness. They work at controlling outcomes, using people and things to make life work as they believe it should. Power is the underlying issue, but once again, Presidents and pawns will eventually lose control of their situation and find themselves at the mercy of others.
Some are convinced that the win in life is in beauty and work hard against the inevitable creases and wrinkles that time etches into every face. Others are convinced that sex is god and pursue one conquest after another. Is there a more sad example of a failed life than Hugh Hefner who founded the Playboy empire? The old fool is still trying to convince himself that those young women in his mansion care about him rather than his fame or money, but the emptiness of his lust is obvious to anyone with insight.
Paul knew that the ‘win’ was about God and people! Convinced that Heaven was just beyond the finish line here on this earth, he gave himself to loving God. Setting aside the offers of a comfortable, but unchallenged, life; looking beyond the happiness of being socially accepted found by living in a way that was shaped around the norms of his culture, he asked the Spirit to lead him along the Way. His life did not look very successful from the outside. He was arrested, jailed, reviled by his own people, and often living in dire straits. However, he remained focused on the ultimate definition of a ‘win.’ “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers (servants) of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us.” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7, NLT)
He measured his effectiveness, not by awards, not by wealth, not by applause – but by the transformed lives he left in his wake. When the Gospel of Christ took root in another heart, changing a sinner to a saint, changing the destiny of another lost soul; Paul knew the joy of a win! His sense of genuine triumph echoes out of these lines to the church he founded in Corinth. “The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3, NLT)
Jesus defines the ‘rules of the game’ in simple terms. No, it is not easy to apply them to life; quite the opposite. Clear and simple in declaration, they demand a radical commitment, a humble heart, and surrender to the Spirit on a daily basis. “Want to win?” Jesus asks. Here are the rules. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT)
As you begin this new week, define the ‘win.’ Decide to get in the game and stay in it until the end. Watch out for deadly apathy, for settling for the status quo, for choosing trinkets over treasure. “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me!” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26, The Message)
Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee (Ode To Joy)
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love.
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness
Fill us with the light of day!
Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest.
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest.
Thou our Father, Christ, our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine.
Teach us how to love each other
Lift us to the joy divine.
Edward Hodges | Henry Van Dyke | Ludwig van Beethoven
© Words: Public Domain