If you believe the hype, we humans love to win. Whether it’s Darwin and the survival of the fittest theory, a Premier League footballer desperate for a trophy or when you’re just trying to wind up your little brother or sister in a board game, the desire to win is supposed to be part of our DNA. So why would you ever choose to lose?
Did you see that Spanish triathlete, Diego, in the news recently? He was in fourth place with just 100 metres or so until the finish line. He had no chance of finishing third and getting a medal. Then the guy in front, James, misreads some signs and runs the wrong way. Diego overtakes him. A few metres from the finish line, Diego stops to let James take third. He gave up his medal-winning place.
Diego said: “When I saw that he had missed the route, I just stopped. James deserved this medal”.
Winning isn’t everything. Diego realised that choosing to lose was the right thing. And in doing so his morals and sportsmanship have been praised around the world.
Want to be first?
Jesus spoke to this desire in our character to win in both His life and teachings. He lived it. And instead of being the traditional strong, winning hero character, He pushed a different mentality:
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last. They must be the servant of everyone.”
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He regularly challenged and angered those who were ‘winners’ in His society. The ruling religious elites just couldn’t get their heads around His ideas. Jesus said it wasn’t about being rich and powerful or praying and doing the right things at the right times, but about humbling yourself before God in everything and at every time. Think about it: 2,000 years ago He was falsely accused, put on trial and then crucified – hardly a winning end in the eyes of the world. But we know that isn’t how it all finishes.
By all accounts, the rich young ruler was a winner (Mark 10:17-27). He had devoutly followed all the religious rules and had gained money, influence and property. But his interaction with Jesus ends with the implication that he couldn’t give up his wealth – the thing God had pinpointed in his heart. In contrast, when Jesus and His disciples see people giving money at the temple, Jesus praises not those who have the most, but the poor widow who gave the least. He explains: “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:44).
In Jesus’ kingdom, everything is turned upside down. Wealth, security, reputation, medals, abilities – all the things that help us to believe we’re winning in life – Jesus doesn’t really care about. These things fade and He sees right through them. We may value them now, but Jesus says that it is our relationship with God that is the real win. Not fame, followers or funds.
This is one thing that many in our persecuted church family have grasped much better than us. In many places, following Jesus is a ‘losing’ choice. It could mean your family reject you. It could mean losing your job, home and security. In other places it could mean losing your freedom because of a prison sentence. In some places, it could mean losing your life.
The losing choice
Image: Nhung and his family – we can’t show their faces for security reasons
Back in April, Nhung* and his family from northern Vietnam chose Jesus. They knew their decision would have consequences – Nhung was a government official and, because Vietnam is run by the Communist Party, he wasn’t supposed to be involved with any religion. In August, the local authorities found out about the family’s choice to follow Jesus.
There was a lot of pressure on the family to give up their faith, but they stood firm, telling those intimidating them how God had changed their lives since they became Christians.
Because they refused to give up Christianity, Nhung lost his party membership and his job. Since then, the family has a new dilemma: give up Jesus or be forced out of their home and village.
By all accounts, in choosing Jesus, Nhung has made a losing choice. So why have he and his family stuck with it? Why would he give up a decent life and job, his reputation, money and nice home?
Nhung deeply knows what we sometimes miss – that in choosing Jesus we can never lose. He knows that the last will be first and first will be last. He knows that in Jesus, things spin upside down and that our source of worth and value can never be found in things, but only in God.
Paul, who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, said something similar. In his life he faced arrest, prison, riots, beatings, ship-wrecks and eventually execution. In the midst of it all he wrote: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)
With Jesus, no matter what life throws at us and whether it looks like we’re losing we know we’ve already won – and that is the upside-down.
So, could you choose to lose? What is that thing that you love? Read through the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10: 17-27) and see what God pinpoints in your heart – something you love doing, having or eating!
Could you get sponsored to give that up for a short time to raise money and prayer for persecuted Christians – those prepared to lose everything because they have chosen Jesus?
Could you stand with them, and explore their incredible brave and courageous faith?
Could you use that time to draw closer to God, choosing to put Him above all else… the ultimate winning choice?
Join the Blackout and choose to lose something you love – we’ll send you an awesome pack to help you raise funds and connect with God and the brave faith of your persecuted family.
- That God will encourage Nhung and his family, and they will be strengthened in their faith
- That God will provide for them and help Nhung find a new job
- For God to protect and comfort them
*Name changed for security reasons