In sports, there are many record-breaking teams which never achieved the ultimate goal of winning a championship. The 2007 New England Patriots took a perfect record into the final game, the Super Bowl, only to lose in the final moments. The 2001 Seattle Mariners won more baseball games than any team in history but failed to win the World Series. Unfortunately, in the history books, these teams are defined by their failures, not their accomplishments.
Whether we play sports or not, we’ve all lost money, a job or promotion, maybe even a relationship or loved one and we’ll probably lose again in the future. Losing is part of life, but must it define us? How do we put losing in its place?
In Hebrews 11, the majority of the chapter is devoted to great men of faith like Abraham and Moses who trusted in God in hard times and lived to see God’s faithfulness. However, in verse 35, the tone shifts completely to those who lose in this life: “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword…” (vv. 35-37) Were these faithful Christians losers, by any definition, because they didn’t receive a peaceful and happy life?
A few lines down in Hebrews 11, verses 39 and 40 tell us, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” The author of Hebrews is calling our attention away from worldly wins and losses and to the greater picture of a much bigger, eternal spiritual win in Christ. It’s not simply about overcoming losses in this world, but it’s also about viewing these losses against the backdrop of an eternal winning season in heaven with Jesus.
Losing is always painful, whether it’s in the Super Bowl, our finances, our career, or when we lose a loved one through death, distance, or disagreement. Even worse, these failures often become soul-crushing and life-defining, but only if we neglect to view these losses, or “momentary afflictions,” in light of the “eternal weight of glory” that awaits us. (2 Corinthians 4:17) The proper perspective can change the definition of an experience; we must try to experience this life’s losses – and victories – from an eternal perspective.