I believe God deserves our best and He wants us to live in victory. Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). I believe the Bible challenges us to strive for excellence.
In the Bible we are challenged to be overcomers. The apostle Paul said, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).
Vince Lombardi, legendary NFL and Hall of Fame coach who steered the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships and victories in Super Bowls I and II, said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Tom Landry, the coach who led the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships, said, “Take away winning, and you take away everything that is American.”
Someone else said, “If you lose, you can’t lead. If you don’t lead, you are irrelevant. Winning is what it is all about.”
Success from the struggle
Do you know what bothers me? It bothers me that all to often today winning is not encouraged. It bothers me that young athletes are celebrated for just showing up. Youth sports programs now universally award trophies no matter if your kids won or lost.
There is a self-esteem movement. Parents and coaches today feel obligated to heap praise on children, no matter if they deserve it or not. No matter if they hit a home run or made the error that lost the game for their team. That is, if they even keep score at all.
And today there are some schools that refuse to fail a student no matter how bad their grades may be. One teacher said, “I never fail anyone, because I don’t want a low grade to jeopardize someone’s chances of getting into college, cause her to lose her scholarship, or ruin her career before it has even begun.”
We have become a nation of coddlers. Without failure, students never learn personal responsibility. Without failure, a student or an athlete can never learn what it takes to succeed. Without failure, one can never reach their full potential.
There is a difference in winners and losers. And to some it is easier to wallow in self-pity than it is to struggle to achieve victory.
Find, celebrate the wins
A couple of months ago I watched game seven of the NBA championship between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers won by a score of 93 to 89. The game featured 20 lead changes and 11 ties. And I watched the crowd and observed their despair and disappointment when their team was losing and their joy and excitement when their team was winning.
What was the difference? The score. Watch the demeanor and expression of the fans of the team that is winning and then observe the countenance and body language of the fans whose team is losing. Being a winner brings joy, excitement, and a sense of accomplishment. Those on the losing side are downcast, dejected, and depressed.
I took my grandson to the Georgia Tech-Vanderbilt football game on Saturday and sat behind one of the most demonstrative fans I have ever seen. When Tech scored he was animated and vociferous – even obnoxious. Before the game became lopsided Vanderbilt scored and this same man who had been Tech’s most notable cheerleader became quiet and sullen.
Similarly, if you don’t have some victories in your church you will have a difficult time getting people to come. Even if they do come, if they see a morose, downcast congregation, sense a spirit of defeat, discover that there is no vision, and observe a people who seem to be disillusioned before a world they appear to be powerless to change, they won’t come back. The people in your neighborhood face trials, troubles, defeats, discouragement, and despair all week. They don’t want to come to a church where there is no sense of victory.
Yes, you must condemn sin and call people to repentance and righteous living, but don’t forget to focus on the goodness and grace of God. Establish some goals that your church can reach and celebrate those victories. Recognize people in the church who have won victories.
The place of victory
If you read the book of Acts, you read plenty about persecution and martyrdom, but almost every chapter also contains a note of victory.
The Apostle Paul experienced all kinds of persecution, but his writings convey hope, joy, and victory. He wrote, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ” (II Corinthians 2: 14). He also wrote, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). The Apostle John said, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).
We need to remember where our victory comes from. We need to emphasize the victory we have in Christ. We know how this thing is going to end. We win! We are already sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Let’s start enjoying the victory we know we have in Christ Jesus.