Competition. Whether it be in groups, individualized between only two combatants, or within us, competition is a part of our nature. What I would like to attempt to discern in this letter to you is if this competitional attribute within every human being is of our sinful nature or not, and for that I believe one of the main topics we will need to once again concern ourselves with is our emotions.
My lovely wife and I were discussing the reactions of an individual who owns a prominent sporting team and his apprehension about firing the longtime coach of this particular team, once again they had not achieved their goal of winning the championship and of course in any competition there is always and end result, there is a winner, and there are losers. She informed me that this team had indeed won the championship more than once in the past and since this extremely wealthy in the world individual had tasted victory before, he of course wanted it again. He would be happy, the team would be happy, the fans ecstatic, and of course merchandise sales would increase. The issue in this particular scenario is that the owner of this team is a multi-billionaire and thereby has access to nearly all that this world has to offer, yet even though the sports team that he owns has won the championship more than once, it was still not enough, he needs more.
“He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Eccl. 5:10) Everything, all the time and it is still not enough. The competition must be won, for if it is not, you are a loser. It is an odd thing to watch those individuals in the stands at these and nearly every other sporting events, when the team whose shirt they wear plays well, they are elated, when they do not and lose the competition, they are dejected, at least in this area of thought they are living vicariously thru the actions of others, and the team’s ability that day is what effects these individuals emotional state. I know people who are quite adamant about their chosen team in many different venues, teams that have never won the final award, and yet they are faithful to that team. Even though these individuals have absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the game, the players on the field are not the same ones they were ten years or more ago, they wear the pseudo-uniform of their chosen team, sticking with them for many years. They willingly allow themselves to feel the pangs of loss that those on the field of participation feel and hope that next year they too will be part of the winning team. Even though they will admit that it will probably not occur, they have pledged loyalty to this team.
There is a sense of great sadness I feel for these individuals, they have willingly chosen to continue in a life that expects loss, expects to lose, and have nothing more in this area of their lives than that expectation. A hope that dwindles as the next season begins to unfold again, watching as those they have decided to emulate begin once again to fail at their endeavors to reach the pinnacle of their chosen craft. Those who have won expect to win again, and when victory does not reappear, the dejection is even worse, for they have known the feeling of being the best among all their competitors. Rationalizations, reasons, and excuses abound, promises to do better next year are given, but my friends, time will show to all that have not accepted Christ as Savior as what they are, losers, in the worst possible way.
The accolades of man are passing and fleeting, perhaps a bronze statue with a plaque on it in a prominent place, a notation in a book of their accomplishments, but their names will fade with time, and their fans will move onto the next hero of the day, not even realizing that the only part they played in this event was their cheers and the wearing of the teams colors. In any competition there must be a winner and loser, and isn’t it interesting the emotional context of these two words, one is elating, the other depressing. The word winners evoke thoughts of pride, greatness, better than others, it helps us to hold our head up high, puts a bounce in our step, brings our emotional state above that of the normal. It matters not if it was our team that won or the accomplishment of a task that we have completed, we have won and that was the goal. When our team wins, we proclaim gladly “we won,” when they do not win, we say “they lost.” No one ever wants to be on the losing side of anything, losers are second best, they are seen as less than, they have been unable to accomplish the task at hand.
There is a very big difference between failing and being a failure. Those who have failed seek for those things that caused the incident not to be accomplished and correct them, they learn from their mistakes more than they could if they had succeeded. Failures are those who have given up, those who search elsewhere for tasks that perhaps they can accomplish, but never really put any hope into that venture. Those who win are known as winners, if they keep winning. Time, age, physical abilities will change many from winners to losers though, and then all they will have will be the memories of their glory days, they have sought the things of man, and not of God. Their own praise and the pride that comes with winning, and all their rewards they will leave here when they die. (Eccl. 5:15).
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) People don’t fight fights or run races (1 Cor. 9:24-27) unless they are in competition with someone, do they? If you are in a competition, doesn’t that mean that you are competing against someone, or something, that a battle of sorts is and has been going on, that someone or something is challenging you, and that if you do not win, you will lose. Herein is the greatest battle of all, not that of the Christian against the adversary of our souls, Christ has already won the battle, but against ourselves. We fight within ourselves on nearly every level, and it is sad to say, but far too many Christians see themselves as losers. They do not see themselves as Saints, though that is our title, they do not walk with the confidence that they are Ambassadors of Almighty God. They do not speak with authority; they do not carry themselves as heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Too many have made themselves sub-servient in their own eyes, and have forgotten that they are servants of Christ, who is Lord of all, these have exchanged their humble selves before Him for a type of self-depreciating humility before man and themselves.
There is very little confidence in far too many Christians today, why were twelve spies sent out, but only two returned with confidence (Numb. 13), why did David not just go against Goliath, but actually ran towards him (1 Sam. 17:48), why did Elijah make fun of the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27)? Why did our Lord go to the cross? Confidence, the Lord God rules in Heaven and on earth, He does not know the meaning of the word lose, He has no competition. By attaching too much of a negative context to any competition that we enter and lose, by accepting failure and then remaining in that emotional state, we dishonor our Father in Heaven. By hoping that things will get better but remaining in an abject state of loss, by being intimidated by our failures and the accomplishments of others that we cannot find in ourselves, we deny ourselves the joy of the Lord.
We are children of the Most High God, you will spend eternity in Heaven with Christ and enjoy pleasures forever more, what earthly loss could possibly cover or blot out that type of incredible joyful knowledge? No accomplishment here for only the sake of the world or self will ever be acknowledged in Heaven, not one. This is the fight that Paul was speaking about, the fight against the sinful nature to seek the accolades of the world, the battle against the flesh and self to seek the praise of men, trying to help us to see that we have already won and we will never know what it means to lose again.
You can’t fight unless you have someone to fight against, there can be no competition unless there are at least two combatants. We have a constant foe that we battle against, it never leaves us, it never quits, it hates the word ‘lose’ more than you do, and it is you. Our old man (Romans 6:6), our sinful nature will fight against us viscously, it does not want to die, and this battle will not cease until we are glorified by our Lord. I long to see this enemy inside of me die, he never leaves me alone, he is more than persistent and knows full well how to manipulate my emotional state. He wants, he covets the things of the world, he loves to try to fill me with pride or tell me that I do not matter, that I have not just lost, I am a loser. I get very frustrated and tired waiting some days for that moment when my Savior will cast him out of me, and I will truly be free.
If you want to wear the teams uniform that always wins my friends, turn to the Book of Ephesians and learn how to put on the Armor of God. Add to it servitude and humbleness, gratitude and love towards Christ and self-will begins to die. You will start to see what you should have known from the moment that you fell prostrate at the cross and gave your life to Him, He has won the war, and though you may stumble in a battle or two on your way home, you can never lose again, victory is assured, and the treasure of Christ Himself awaits your entrance into the Kingdom of His Father and ours.
Fight the good fight, don’t ever stop fighting, fight with the confidence that He whom we serve is Faithful and True. We can do nothing without Him (John 15:5) but we can do all things thru Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). These are not just verse’s that we should memorize, these are the words of a victorious servant of Christ.