There are some people in this “game of life” who have lost the game before they ever entered the playing field. They were impoverished before they ever took up their life’s work and they will never succeed. They suffered defeat before they ever fought a battle, and they could never even crush a fragile shell that washed up on the beach.
Such people are losers because they are defeatists. They live in anticipation that things will not go well and that their efforts will accomplish little, and their fears produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Once there was a talented young artist who worked as an errand boy in an advertising agency. He watched as one artist after another received commendations for work of far lesser quality than his own talent could produce. The errand boy went about his menial tasks, and upon returning to his solitary furnished room he contemplated the inequity of the situation. Finally he decided that the promotions and all the important art jobs only went to those who had an in” with the boss. He knew he did not have that kind of influence, so he never showed anyone his own portfolio, and he ran errands all of his working life.
“That’s unfair,” someone might say. “It’s not right. It should not be!” Yet there are many Christians who suffer from the same kind of defeatism. They “know” that if they ever tried to reach out, or to reach up, they would only be disappointed by failure. Dreading failure, they languish in their personal walk of faith and in their service to the Savior. They so live in the expectation of defeat that they never grow in the Christian life nor exercise their divinely endowed gifts for growth and service. Sadly, they do not realize that they are already disappointed by not trying. They are already defeated by not doing. They have already failed by not reaching. Their anticipation of failure brings disappointment upon them.
God does not intend defeat for his people. The Body of Christ—the Church, the Holy Congregation—is an association established by him. It includes all believers who have been redeemed by his blood. We who are members of this Body are all part of a “team” out on the field of life.
The other team (those who have not committed themselves to the Savior) often seems to be way ahead. They seem to have all the big guys, all the smart guys and the spiffy uniforms. Their captain is a self-assured bully and the father of lies. He ridicules our Coach and often works undercover to discourage us by taunting us about our past failures. His team seems to know how to do everything right in order to win. When it suits them they don’t even play fair. Yet they seem to go unreprimanded, and they keep scoring over and over again.
Compared to them our team looks like a hopeless, helpless, outmatched bunch. But then our Star Player comes onto the field. Suddenly our disjointed team pulls itself together. It clicks into place and with precision runs up the score so that the other team with its seemingly better players becomes the bunch of losers they were destined to be.
You’ve guessed it! Yeshua is that Champion who comes onto the field. In his presence we find our enthusiasm overflowing, our energy rising and our vision focused. We suddenly know that we have an important role to fulfill and a play to complete, and that by doing our part we are contributing to his victory and ours.
It is important for every blood-bought believer who has received Yeshua’s atonement to know that winning is our destiny. Maybe we are discouraged right now. Maybe we are not playing so well on the field of life, but we’ve been told to occupy until he comes. At times it may take all the strength we have just to stay on the field, but we must remember that we are waiting until our Champion gets into the game.
In this tough game of life we may not garner much applause from the bleachers. We are, after all, a minority. We have never had much of a cheering section, but we do have our Rule Book, and we have the Holy Spirit to cheer and to guide us. He keeps whispering to our spirits, “Do not despair. Hang on. I am with you and I will sustain you. Hang on! Your Champion is coming! He is coming! He is coming!”
The theme of his coming begins as a whisper, but the more we dwell upon that glorious hope the more prominent it becomes in our hearts and minds. The more comfort we take in it, the more it continues to well up within our souls until it becomes a rushing tide that will carry us along to ultimate victory.
As I bask in the knowledge and hope of this ultimate victory, I think of my Jewish brothers and sisters who are still impressed by the other team and dazzled by its illusory successes. As my people face Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), they are seeking new hope and assurance. Some may be enjoying temporal success and hoping for another year of the same. Others may have endured pain and personal reversals and may be uncertain and wistful as they hope for fulfillment and well-being in the coming year. Whatever their hopes and aspirations, they think they are betting on the winning team, but if it’s not Yeshua’s team, they are wrong. I wish I could help more of them face the reality that sustains me in times of difficulty. I am constrained to try harder than ever to convey the real truth to more of them—that if they are not on Yeshua’s team, they are on the wrong team that ultimately will lose.
As I continue in the knowledge and hope of my team’s ultimate victory, I also think of my brothers and sisters in Christ—my teammates—Jewish and Gentile believers who may be feeling discouraged or defeated right now. To them I offer this advice:
Know that even if you cannot find an opening to make a play, you can “occupy” the field. You can stand firm, and if you keep struggling you can eventually make a scoring play. The ball just might come your way and allow you to participate in a timely way. And when it does, don’t duck. Stretch for it. Catch it and run with it. Remember, not only will our team eventually win, but as individual players we can also enjoy being winners now!
The more closely we listen to the Holy Spirit, the more convinced we become that we are winners and that we need not be overwhelmed. With that in mind, let us not allow ourselves to stagger off the field toward the bench to avoid the bumping, the slams, and the exhaustion. Instead, let’s keep on contending, even though we might be weakened from pain. By enduring, we become stronger.
God has destined and determined that in Christ we will be the winners. And because of that hope we dare to keep on playing.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).