Thursday, April 02, 2009
Current Study: A to Z
Today’s Topic: Winning Is Everything
Today’s Scripture: Acts 14:19 – 22 (NIV) Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
It’s all about winning. Everything in life is about the experience of victory. From sports to business deals, everyone pursues triumph. Even when we diet, losing is really winning. We were created with an undeniable urge to experience the “thrill of victory” and avoid the “agony of defeat.”
Now before you react negatively to this, think about it carefully. It is not wrong that we focus on winning. The Bible speaks of winning, overcoming, and victory almost 100 times. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (Psalm 60:12)
Sports are one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors of the Christian experience. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5) The passion to win is not a sin. It is only wrong if we think winning defines our worth and if we believe winning in this life is the ultimate victory. An exaggerated emphasis on worldly accomplishments results in ultimate loss, not gain. If a person’s worth is measured by their win/loss percentage, then ultimately at the point of death everything is loss. Even after all of our personal victories in life are counted, death still wins and none of our wins matter: UNLESS death itself can be conquered.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that death has been conquered, and everyone who comes to repentance and faith in Him will ultimately win. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The only victory worth training for is that one. The only win worth fighting for is eternity with Jesus Christ. The only true motivation to get up after a defeat and continue fighting for the faith is the knowledge that ultimate victory is ours in Christ. Look at these incredible promises from God:
1 John 5:4 – 5 (NIV) For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Luke 10:19 (NIV) I have given you authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
Life will be filled with lots of losses. We will suffer rejection from our families and friends because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We will be criticized and even persecuted by our culture because of our stand for moral righteousness and God’s justice. We will suffer financial loss. We will experience emotional loss. There will be deaths in our families. Living life faithfully for Jesus is not easy, and we may experience very few personal victories. But Paul was a great example of how to keep our faith and live it consistently even in the face of death. He was considered dead after the stoning he suffered at Lystra, but he got back up and went right back into the city that had rejected him, putting himself in harm’s way again. Then, after visiting Derbe and winning people to Jesus Christ, he went back to Lystra again to strengthen and encourage the people to remain true to the faith. He modeled to the people how to look beyond the hardships of today to the victory that was coming when Jesus returns.
Death was but the doorway to victory for Paul, and it must be that for us as well. When we see it that way, the fear of worldly loss is consumed in the fire of faith that Jesus Christ has conquered the world. So be encouraged. Do not fear what the world can do to you. Do not fear the loss of worldly gain and worth. Do not fear the people who stand against you because you stand for God. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) And when you do fall down in defeat, even to the point of death, know this: God’s people, the disciples, will gather around you and encourage you so that you will get back up and go back to doing God’s work. And when one of the faithful disciples you know falls down under the weight of persecution and loss, go to them and take your stand around them so they are encouraged to get back up also. We are not in this alone. God is with us, and God’s people stand beside each other. Remain true to the faith, and let’s fight until Jesus comes and we win!