“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” – The Olympic Creed
Winning isn’t everything.
Check your reaction to that one statement, and it’ll tell you a lot about your image of yourself, of success, and of God. Let’s face it; we are a highly competitive society. We’re programmed from the time we’re young to WIN at all costs. Have you been to a little league ball game lately? You will find adorable children all dressed out in their ball uniforms surrounded by half-crazed parents screaming, cursing, and pulling their hair out if their kid’s team isn’t “killing” the other team. I know; I’ve been one of those parents!
We try to tell our children that it’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game. But we don’t really demonstrate that in our own lives, because our identity is wrapped up in our accomplishments and in those of our children. So our children grow up believing that they are a disappointment to us if they don’t WIN in every thing they do. And because parents represent God to their children, they also believe they are disappointing Him by not winning or succeeding in every area, every time. So in our minds, winning really does become everything that builds our self-esteem and sense of worth. Winning becomes our goal.
The problem with that is when we gauge ourselves by the winning alone, we will begin to alter our experiences so that we always win. We’ll cheat, we’ll lie, we’ll force others to see things from our perspective so that we win. We cease to appreciate any experience that doesn’t lend itself to our personal victory. We begin to gauge ourselves by our measure of success, and if we’re succeeding, we feel good about life. If we’re not succeeding, we beat ourselves up and become depressed or despondent until we can figure out a way to win again.
“I always triumph in Christ, right? It’s in the Bible; I know I’ve quoted it thousands of times!” Well, after a closer look, 2 Corinthians 2:14 actually says “Now thanks [be] unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” When we read that correctly, the scripture actually tells us that the giving of thanks to God causes us to celebrate the triumph Christ has already made over the enemy. It is our thanksgiving that demonstrates the knowledge of His victory everywhere we go. The Word doesn’t actually say that we win; it says that He already won.
But wait a minute, I thought I was supposed to always win, always come out on top. If I don’t come out on top, how can I say I am victorious? How can I BE anything? Well, you have to remember that you are victorious IN CHRIST. You can partake of His victory at any time by praising and thanking Him for it. And “any time” means even in those times when you are failing, falling, making mistakes, and experiencing trials and tribulations. So when you’re not winning, you can still thank God because Jesus already won. That means you don’t need to gauge yourself by your victories, but by His. See, when we perceive ourselves as “winning,” it is easy for us to forget that it is only because of Him. It’s easier to have confidence in ourselves when we are the ones in control of our success. Because we are successful, we don’t really understand what it means to triumph in Christ when we are busily triumphing in ourselves. No, we need to stop being success minded, and become Christ-minded, so we can say along with the Apostle Paul, “whether I am abased or I abound, I am content.” That way, our success is not our measure; His is. Our winning doesn’t determine our worth; His does. So, when we’re in our hour of deepest trial, we are still overcoming through HIM.
So, it really is not whether we win or lose, but how we play the game. When we “go for the gold” by pressing toward our prize, we need to remember that our prize is Christ, not a medal! We win IN HIM!
(First published 08.17.08)