Winners Need a Spiritual Compass
What does the bible have to say about winners and losers? Can you win, yet still lose? Can you ‘cheat’ and still win? Can you lose, but ultimately win? The apostle Paul, considered himself one of the worst of all sinners, as he had persecuted other believers. And yet, God had shown him great mercy. So Paul could put his past behind him and run the spiritual race with a hope of success. Paul used his experiences of loss to coach others in running their race and winning the prize of eternal life. He encouraged believers to have faith in Christ and follow the scriptural teachings. They needed to have their spiritual/moral compass set to the true north of God’s word, so they could run with a clear conscience. So are we running to win?
Paul knew that there were those who having begun their course with God, would lose faith and become ‘shipwrecked’ spiritually. He understood that winners and losers are often determined in those times of testing, when life is difficult. It was possible to stumble, and then recover and not lose faith, so you could continue life’s marathon. For Paul, it was not enough to ‘win,’ for one had to win honourably. Heroic victors, though they may fall or stumble, must win the race with untarnished reputations. So Paul admonished believers to be disciplined in their efforts to complete their spiritual race with a clear conscience and their moral compass unwavering.
When Winning is Losing
In recent memory, we have the example of the great cyclist, Lance Armstrong. He had overcome a bout of cancer, and through drive and determination had returned to cycling and won many races. He was at the pinnacle of his sport, and team leader for his country. Yet, eventually, he lost his ‘crown’ and was stripped of all of his wins because of his illegal use of performance enhancing drugs (PED). Sometimes it is only through adversity that people come to themselves, and see their errors. We may need to evaluate our losses, reset our moral compass, and begin anew. Others have had hard falls in life, but upon reflection have been able to pick themselves up and continue on course. With a repentant heart, and faith in God, we can turn a loss into a win.
The Benefits of Losing
Jeremiah attested to the fact that God often uses our “losses” to purify us. Like a “tester of metals,” God uses the adversity or loss to remove the corrupting influences in our lives … individually and nationally. The Lord God wants us to succeed, and it may be necessary for us to lose, before we can win. We cannot truly ‘win’ if we are cheaters, who stray off the course or break the rules. Jesus’ parable of the unfaithful steward makes this message clear.
The steward was caught being dishonest in his dealings with his master’s money. So to save himself, he goes to his master’s debtors and reduces their debts, in the hopes that they will help him out when the master “fires” him. Jesus’ acknowledges that the steward is shrewd and worldly wise, because in this world sometimes cheaters ‘win’ … at least for a time. However, Jesus’ lesson was that if we are to inherit the ultimate prize, and be spiritual winners, we must do it lawfully. We must be faithful in small responsibilities, before God gives us the great responsibilities that come with the gift of eternal life. We cannot be double-minded in our race, like the unfaithful steward. We cannot pretend to please God, while being caught up in the world’s race for money, power, or prestige.
Run to Win – But Not at All Costs
We are in a spiritual race, and we need to run to win. From God’s perspective we win, when our goal is aligned with his goal, and our actions are in harmony with his rules. Paul warns of the danger of being disqualified in our race. This can happen if, in our ‘win at all costs’ mentality, we tarnish our reputation or damage personal relationships. The importance of caring for our fellow running mates is even understood in the world of sports. It is a noble sacrifice when contestants stop their efforts to win in order to help a fellow competitor finish the race. God wants us to be ‘better people’ and it does not matter to him whether we are first of last. All who run and complete God’s race course are winners.
You Do Not Run Alone
Paul understood the hardships that must be endured to run life’s race faithfully. But, he encouraged the brethren to realize that they were not running alone. He knew he had fought the good fight and finished the race, because Jesus his Messiah was his running mate. Paul also reflected on the importance of exhorting others, those running with us. We are responsible for each other, and ‘winners’ help others succeed. In word and by example we are told to set the pace, using our gifts to help others. God sets our destination, he lays out the course, he gives us his rules, he provides ‘teammates,’ and he expects us to run patiently together. God loves those who are running the race with faithful endurance. He will judge the winners and losers with fairness.
Do Not Stumble – Run the Christian Race