“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”
–2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT)
When we think of a winner, we often think of someone who beat the odds. While that is certainly true, I would like to talk about the two ways of becoming a winner.
One is the world’s way, which mainly consists of temporary fame and fortune. The idea here is persisting in your own strength until you achieve your goals, or using brute force of will to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Now please don’t get me wrong. Persistence is an essential component, whether you choose a worldly or a godly lifestyle. Allow me to focus on two household names which epitomize worldly persistence.
It may surprise you that Walt Disney was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In fact, his parents were of humble means, and he had to contend with abuse. But he surely got some breaks along the way, right? Wrong!
Fast-forward with me to his first automation business. It went belly up, and he was left with $40 in his pocket. It is said that this poverty forced him to eat dog food. “Wow, what a diet!” Walt must have thought, because he soon headed out for Los Angeles and tried his hand at acting. But I guess it was back to milk bones for him, because he failed at acting except for a few minor achievements. His success was an uphill battle until he invented …
A new and superior brand of dog food? Yes or no? The answer is a definite no. Mr. Disney became a star of animated entertainment, and he eventually opened Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom in California.
Can’t you just hear him now? “No more dog food! I think we’ve hit pay dirt!” But seriously, the amazing quality which he demonstrates to all of us is persistence.
Now look at example number 2 with me. Maybe you admire Michael Jordan, and you look up to him as a role model. “I wish I could play basketball like that,” you might say. But his achievements took the same kind of persistence.
Michael’s first tries at basketball ended in failure. He was kicked off the high school basketball team. In spite of that event, here is a quote about Michael’s views on failure in general. “The key to success is failure.”
The problem comes when we look at this example from another vantage point. In order to see what I mean, read Michael’s next quote. “Failure is acceptable, but not trying is a whole different ball park.”
Like most of us, as these two people became more and more successful by the world’s standards, they bowed to the god of pride. So while we need to try hard, we also need to guard our hearts, and garner our strength from Christ.
In contrast to both of these talented men, then, let’s look at one characteristic of a winner, according to Jesus. To be a winner in His kingdom, we are told that goals are not accomplished through self-confidence, but rather through Him. Jesus saw the true winner as one who looks at life as a spiritual battle, which we can only wage through His power and might. Instead of toughing it out alone, then, we must show this same kind of persistence as we draw upon Him.
Jesus said, “Blessed (or extremely happy and joyful) are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” That doesn’t sound like a winner, right? Wrong, because His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Jesus is the winner of all winners, and to score eternal touchdowns, we must first be touched by Him. So please look at His Words carefully with me, for I believe there are at least two applications when it comes to living a winning life in His Kingdom.
The first of these applications is not popular in today’s feel-good world, because many people have misunderstood it. Therefore, the correct meaning of this verse needs to be addressed. Here, Jesus is telling us how we can be recipients of God’s extreme joy, which we touched on above. This scripture Is not advocating that Christians go around with a long face. This joy surmounts circumstances, but on the other hand, based on what the Bible states, we know that sin causes loss and destruction. This is a serious matter which can’t be taken lightly. But Jesus implies by default that most of us tend to do just that. Therefore, what you and I see as a trivial mistake may be something quite different in God’s eyes, which could easily bring harm to us. However, if we study His Word and learn to grieve over the sin that grieves Him, He will guide us on the winning path.
Let me try and explain what I mean by using this example. Just as you might strain pasta in your kitchen, Jesus calls all of us to practice a life style of using His word as a strainer for our thoughts and behaviors. This is because the winner’s path is the path to success in His kingdom.
This is also where the idea of persistence comes into play for each child of God. But unlike our examples above, we don’t persist in finding fame or fortune. Rather, our main goal is to persist in trusting a holy God, even when our feelings tell us not to.
A persistent practice of staying in the Word keeps us walking in the light, and allows a loving God to deal with us accordingly. When we find out what is displeasing to Him, we can work on pleasing Him, as well as our brothers and sisters.
Because of the freedom in Christ we have, we are no longer bound by the chains of self-absorption. In this way, we can live the lifestyle of a true winner, as we join those who walk under His shadow. So, why not be a winner in His kingdom today?
The other facet of mourning that Jesus spoke about is taking our cares to a loving God. Therefore, as we deal with the losses in our lives, Jesus wants us to know that we don’t walk alone. So if you feel lonely, go to His throne.
The book of Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not (or don’t depend) on your own understanding.” So, I have a question for you. When facing obstacles in your life, what is your response? Do you lean on your own understanding? Or do you lean on the person of Jesus?
I encourage you to lean on Him in hardship and loss, and watch as He turns your defeats into victories. I don’t mean to suggest that life will always be a bed of roses, let alone a clear path. But through loss and pain, I have always found God to be faithful and true.
When life seems more like a baffling maze than anything, Satan will try and tell you to quit, and that you just can’t go on. But the Bible says that the Devil is a liar, and that you will win through Christ.
One scripture that I try and cling to tells me that all things work together for good to those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose. “I’m sorry,” you say, “but that sounds absurd.” But why not take the attitude of a winner, before dismissing this out of hand? Read this verse over again, my friend, and look at what it doesn’t say. It does not say, by any stretch of the imagination, that all things which happen to us are good, because they’re not. Rather, this scripture says that a loving God who is rich in mercy can bring good out of whatever you are going through. Sound impossible? Be a winner, and let God wipe that word from your vocabulary.
Scripture also tells us that while weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning. So now, I will tell you about another quote which I learned during my time in sales. It has been a beacon of light to me on the path of life, and while I am still a beginner when it comes to our subject today, I would like to pass it on. It simply says, “No is not necessarily negative.” When things are dark, it speaks to me of having a relentless determination, along with some plain old-fashioned grit. But my strength to hang on is not my own–it comes from Him. So when things get rough, ask for God’s help and do the same thing. Since this is easier said than done, here are a few tricks that might help to internalize this outlook.
When everything on the horizon of life looks bleak, one of the main concepts I learned was the idea of owning. Owning simply means that before something can become an outward reality, you must make it yours.
In the Christian life, we don’t do this, and many times we settle for a head knowledge of Jesus. Actually owning is a life-long process, since we are always confronted by new challenges. So here are some actions we can take as we study the exercises below. We usually groan because we think of exercise in terms of the physical, and it often carries a negative connotation. But neither of these ideas need be true. So buckle up, and let’s talk about some exercises that can help us win in the spiritual arena of life.
I think we are all plagued with short-term memory loss when it comes to God’s mercy towards us, so I will let each letter of the word “WALK” speak to us. I encourage you to find a quiet corner, and really consider all of the attributes of Christ represented by these letters.
The W stands for Word, as the Bible teaches that Jesus was the living word who existed before all time. While that is mind-boggling to us, it sure puts a new slant on things.
Next, the letter A stands for the Almighty God, who emptied Himself to walk with you and me. These two letters are intertwined, and they speak of God’s amazing love which is freely extended towards us.
In contrast, the l and k speak of our response towards Him. Once we have committed ourselves to Him, He becomes our Lord and our King, and our lives are no longer our own. Rather, we are bought with a price. Instead of responding by denying ourselves and saying no to what displeases Him, He calls us to live the life of joy and peace. So hold your head up high, and walk like a winner. By choosing His life, you will let Him lead you to victory.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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