Is Our Focus on Winning Making Us a Bunch of Losers

A really big golf trophy

I may write more on this in the upcoming weeks, so while my thoughts may branch out several times I won’t delve too deeply into certain areas.

We are a culture that is obsessed with winning. Win at all costs. Win the Big One. Playing for One Game and on and on we could go. We love to see our sports teams win. We love to see them win so much that if they don’t win we want immediate change and vitriol against other teams is soon to follow.

Sport’s isn’t the only arena in which we desire to win. Materially we pursue the newest, best, biggest, etc. We need a bigger house, newer appliance, trendier phone and whatever else you can imagine. In the spiritual realm I would say that we are not different by much. The size of our church, number of programs, types of music, lighting and a myriad of other things are where we often focus much of our attention.

Off course, the inverse can certainly be true in that we may congratulate ourselves on not having much materially, attending a small church, looking different, etc. However, I would hold that we put a lot of value on winning as it is understood in the basest of Western culture jargon. This is why I believe sports are so unique and our response to them shows some rare honesty. It is here that we often feel that we can let our true emotions show. After all, the final score tells us clearly who won and who lost. This has led us to be a little more vocally honest here about how we truly feel; winners win, losers lose.

Big surprise here: I watched the National Championship game on January 8. I watched it down to the final second and then stood up, walked to my room, and went to sleep. I didn’t need to see the postgame ceremony. In what has become the most anticlimactic moment in sports, Jameis Winston was named the MVP. Really? Now, don’t get me wrong. I was excited that the Seminoles won, but Winston wasn’t close to being the Most Valuable Player on the field that night. That honor belonged to Tre Mason from Auburn. Mason’s team, however, lost. This now seems to make him ineligible to win an award that was his until the final 1:12.

I’m sorry but we are turning into a culture of losers if we can’t celebrate the best player on the field – whether their team won or not. Sports are often a microcosm of our “real” lives and it is to our “real” lives that I want us to give some consideration. Today I want to simply address one thing and targeting individuals who would profess to know Jesus personally. Is our desire to win, making us a bunch of losers?

Before I go any further I must state the obvious. People, individual people, some that I know personally and others that I may not know as well may read this. They are suffering. The purpose of what I write here is not to call anyone’s suffering into question in anyone else’s mind, but rather to challenge us to ask this question: What exactly is winning?

Secondly, I would not ever dare try to determine a metric that could accurately define what is suffering/pain/losing and what is not. I have been in many hospital rooms over the years and I will often glance at the pain chart. Here the nurses are tracking the level of the patient’s pain at the current time. The absurdity of this exercise has not been lost on me. I’ve been in rooms where 10 is circled – indicating great pain – and yet the patient is conversant and able to interact with everyone in the room. In other rooms the number circled has been much lower and yet the patient is unable to focus very long on anything besides the pain.

Now that I’ve leveled some things, let us begin. In an interview with Eric Metaxas, Malcolm Gladwell, made a distinct point about David: He wasn’t an underdog when he was filled with the Spirit of God. Gladwell then spent some time – in my estimation – muddying the waters as to what exactly “faith” is, but his point was loud and clear. David, filled with the Spirit of God, was never an underdog to Goliath. And even greater than that fact is this; David should not have seen himself as an underdog to Goliath, for to do so would have been to deny the very faith that he, David, had in God.

Due to our obsession with winning are we making ourselves losers in that we don’t fully appreciate the value of our experiences? The believer that thinks they must read the Bible through in a year to become a secure and accomplished Christian has now read from Genesis to Psalm 118 in 2011, Genesis to Numbers 29 in 2012, and after a heroic effort in 2013 has found himself in a valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 38. That same individual could have read through the shorter Epistles in less than 30 minutes one evening and by devoting 5 minutes to the Gospels could easily read through them in less than two months. But that’s not winning!

Is it really such a bad thing to work in a place where people think you are weird because of your beliefs? Are we missing an opportunity to experience the power of God within us when we spend so much of our time opining as to how we would rather work someplace where everyone supported our beliefs and desires? Could we be the loser who has a secular job and yet can still rejoice in God’s provision?

Hey, in case you didn’t know, there are people out there who journal their prayers. Yep, they do. They also bake 15 layer cakes, covered with fondant and they look as if they were molded from plastic, while tasting fantastic. Journaling your  prayers can be awesome, but are you missing out on talking to your Heavenly Father because your kids are squirming in your lap or arguing in the next room over whether or not to play football or soccer – in your house! I know in our current spiritual terms that we aren’t winning if much of our prayer happens this way, but we sure can be competing.

In the end, only one teams hoists a trophy, but every believer receives a crown. So, if you have a minute – three to be exact – take a spin through Romans 8 and see if you don’t have a better grasp of winning on the other side.

Published by Daniel M Harding

Husband, father, associate pastor.

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