We all like to win. When we’re young, it’s win the spelling bee, the game, or the scholarship. Later in life, it’s win the guy or girl, the promotion, or the lottery. Many of us arrange our whole life around winning, but no matter how hard we try, sometimes we lose. Why can’t we always win? Isn’t that the point of everything, to win? Didn’t a famous coach once say, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing?” According to God, this life isn’t all about winning; it’s actually more about losing.
Paul, the greatest minister of Christianity ever, doesn’t seem to be consumed with winning. Actually, in Philippians 3:8-9, he declares, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Paul thinks the things of this world are garbage compared to knowing Jesus. Is a relationship with Jesus worth all that? Paul thinks so, continuing in verse 10, “….that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” Paul’s message is clear: he’s going to suffer loss in this world. Is that a winning attitude, to be willing to lose everything, suffer, and die? Listen to just a few of Paul’s losses: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked…” (2 Corinthians 11:25)
Before we dismiss Paul as not being a winner, consider what he says later in Philippians 3. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (v. 13-14) In 1 Corinthians 9:25-26, he reasons, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” It’s not that Paul isn’t a winner or a fighter, but it’s all about what he’s fighting for. Many of us are fighting and scrapping for the perishable trophies of this world, like the perfect job, relationship, or car, but Paul is set to lose all those things in order to win in Jesus Christ.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. After they died, the rich man found himself in anguish in Hades; Lazarus was comforted at father Abraham’s side. The rich man called out to Abraham for relief, but Abraham replied, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (v. 25) We can scratch and claw our way to victories in this world, but that’s going to put us in a bad position as we head into the next world. The coach was wrong – it’s not about winning in this life, it’s about losing. For Christians, the wins come later. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:29-30)