Whether the Super Bowl or the Olympics, this week we are watching wins and losses on large public stages. The Christian life, while not a game, is also full of wins and losses. Can one be happy in losing? ◊
Everyone likes to win. No one likes to lose. Whether a sports team playing for an NFL championship this weekend at the Super Bowl, or nations competing on a global Olympic stage currently in Beijing, there are and will be winners and losers.
Is Jesus for Winners or Losers?
In sports and in life, winning is everything. Or so it seems. Losers are not heralded or celebrated. We all want to win. We want the Gold, or literally money, a good job, friends, a happy home life. We want to look good.
We do want to win, or at least not fail, in everything we do.
Jesus mixes us up with what he said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12). He makes it seem like the goal in life is to be a passive loser. Here’s his itemized list of things to strive for:
- Be poor in spirit
- Be one who mourns
- Be meek
- Be righteous
- Be nice
- Be pure
- Seek peace
- Be insulted
- Be persecuted
Not necessarily an attractive list of goals for that competitive driver in all of us. Who wants to live a life like this? Jesus actually calls people like this blessed or happy.
Does this even make sense?
Is it More Blessed to Lose Than to Win?
Certainly here and the teachings of Jesus in general can and did create a sense of loss, inferiority, even despair in the hearts and minds of His audience. Who wants to be sad? Who wants to live in poverty of any kind? How can I ever achieve such righteousness? Who wants no social standing or authority? Who wants to not have a little fun? Who wants to be insulted? Who wants to lose?
Nobody does. It’s not normal. And that’s the point.
The Kingdom of God, heralded by John the Baptist at the onset and espoused by Jesus Christ throughout His teachings (as in the Sermon on the Mount), was and is anything but normal.
In fact, it doesn’t make sense. It seems backwards and illogical.
Which is actually the life of one following Christ. It’s counter-intuitive. But then upon further review it actually starts to make sense. Try looking at it this way. Here’s my rewriting of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:
“Blessed (Happy) are those who submit their heart, mind, and soul to the Lord Jesus, as they see their own spiritual poverty; who ache, even mourn over their own brokenness, loss and depravity; who resist the world’s status and humbly hold others better than themselves; who selflessly seek goodness and right behavior in themselves and others; who are gentle, kind and caring in all situations they encounter; who resist dark impurities of heart and mind in favor of holy purity in all things; who seek love and peace and drive others toward those goals; who can absorb the hurt, pain and rejection, even persecution, of an anti-Christian culture that does not yet know truth. Be blessed, be happy, for the Lord will always be with you.”
This way of living is beyond the norm. It’s actually impossible in our own will and humanness. It is only possible through the transforming, saving grace of Christ.
After years of trying to win in life, I ultimately submitted my own life and human will to God – it actually started with a simple prayer I repeated in many different situations:
“Jesus, I can’t do this alone.”
Then my world became counter-intuitive. It became different. Now, like other imperfect but devoted Christ-followers, I can daresay I am blessed.
How do you handle wins and loses? Are you blessed?
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Matthew 16:24-26