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a voice crying out in the postmodern wilderness

Does God Care If You Win?

Does God Care If You Win?

The last snap. The clock runs out. The receiver runs a slant. After a quick interchange with the cornerback, he cuts inside and turns at the perfect time. He catches the ball in stride and jukes a defensive back, then another. He runs like a gazelle to the end zone as the crowd roars. Just before his team swarms him in celebration, he kneels, bows his head, and points to heaven.

Does God care about this touchdown?

I am writing this the morning before a jiu jitsu competition. As I have prayed this morning, I have asked God to train my hands for battle. It is, of course, not battle. The conditions will be safe and there are rules. People will get choked and limbs will get bent, but no one will die. But there is something at stake, and that is winning. But does it really matter?

When one person (or team) wins, another loses. But what if both have God's favor? Do they tie or does one have to lose? How does he decide? Does a win or loss show God's favor, or lack thereof?

Here is the way I see it. Say my opponent has prayed just as I have prayed. He has prayed for me as I have prayed for him, and he has prayed that he wins today. Hypothetically we will meet on the mats in the same spiritual condition. But realistically we won't. One of us will need the humbling sting of defeat - perhaps for the development of our character. One of us receive the blessing of victory. And both will benefit.

You see, God's sovereign plan includes the little things in life. His narrative of redemption is an ornate tapestry, with threads of pain and joy, victory and loss. Just because one person wins or loses does not mean God is for them or against them.

The proof of God's favor lies not points scored or medals earned, but rather on the cross. The proof of his favor lies in the pierced hands of Jesus, in his holy blood which ran to the ground. Sunrises and babies and good meals and victories are hints of his love, but his magnum opus of love was displayed on the cross. And thus, win or lose in life, those in Christ shall always win in death.

So, as long as it's heartfelt, I think the end zone prayer is legit. God gave the athlete the skill and the touchdown was in fact a blessing. But as the other team hangs their head and sulks to the locker room, may they remember the eternal scoreboard which demonstrates a shutout in the battle between sin and grace. Grace wins because of Jesus, so win or lose, may we all look to him.

Afterword:

Ironically, I went on to lose all three of my matches the day I wrote the above words. It's funny how God prepares our hearts for life events. Losing, while disheartening, provides perspective. It intensifies weakness and highlights areas in which we can grow. Our response to a loss shows what our hearts are attached to, and thus we can learn a lot about ourselves when we lose. God is good to us when we lose in that when we lose, he is carving our character.

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