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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Messages » Playing to Not Lose Instead of Playing to Win

Playing to Not Lose Instead of Playing to Win

A few mornings ago I was listening to the radio on the way to work. I was trying to find someone giving the news. One station had a news broadcast so I stopped there. Unfortunately, it was just finishing up the five minutes worth and it quickly jumped into the sports. Now, I have never been a sports fan of any kind. I have tried to understand every kind of team sport there is to no avail. I suppose it’s my non-competitive nature. I was just about to turn the radio off when the sportscaster made a statement that caught my attention. He was talking about a team that was struggling to win a game. He stated that the problem was they were playing to not lose instead of playing to win.

I quickly turned off the radio so that I could meditate on that statement. I knew that something was there for me spiritually. Is this a condition that Christians can get into while trying to walk their beliefs? I think it is. Anytime I get a thought like that I always have to go to the Word and see if it’s true. You see, the Word of God is truth. As I prayed about this I started thinking about Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon can be found in Matthew chapters five through seven. Jesus talked about the Law and how it stated certain things. Several times He said ,”You have heard it said” and then finished the thought with “But I say”. In each statement Jesus made it clear that He taught a stricter and more difficult way to live.

For example in verse thirty-eight He talked about the law of an Eye for and Eye. When someone is negligent or intentionally harms someone by the old law they would have the same suffering applied to them. His teaching on this was that we should not resist evil but rather turn the other cheek when someone is harmful to us. This goes against out flesh and that is exactly the point He was trying to make.

In verse forty-three He talked about the law to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. His response was to love your enemy and to do good to those that hate you and to pray for those who abuse you. Again, we see that we are to overcome the flesh and to go against that thing inside us that would want us to get even. It is a difficult thing to do. In fact, it is impossible without God helping us. We cannot, of our own will love our enemies. It just won’t happen. Look at Matthew chapter seven and verse thirteen. Jesus told us that the entrance to heaven is a narrow place and few will get in. Hell has a broad path and many will go there. Whenever someone calls you narrow-minded that may be a good thing if you are narrowly focused on God. If you are it will make the majority angry. They want to believe that everyone who is sincere will go to heaven even if they believe in other paths. Only Jesus can lead a person to Heaven. So, how is all of this playing to win instead of playing to not lose? Stay with me because I’ve got more scripture to cover first.

The Holy Spirit took me to the story of the Widows Mite in Luke chapter twenty-one. Jesus sat and watched as people gave money to the Temple. He saw many people drop money in but then a poor widow came through and dropped in a couple of pennies. This small act caused Him to comment on her situation.  All gave some but she gave all. She did not give out of her abundance but totally gave all she had. Have you considered that Jesus is observing your giving habits? Did you know that He sees your acts for what they are? The world may think we are living right but Jesus knows if we are really doing our best.

God demands the best we have. He always has. When the Old Covenant was in place the only sacrifice that He would accept was the spotless lamb. If the lamb had a blemish it was unacceptable as a covering for sin. In that day you could not give a blemished animal simply because it had little worth to you. Your best was required. Ultimately, this is a picture of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. He was the lamb without spot or blemish. If we look again to the Old Covenant as an example (Gal 3:24) we see that not only did the sacrifice have to be perfect but the priest had to be pure before he could enter the Holy of Holies. The people themselves had to sanctify themselves (Lev 20:7-8). They were required to obey the law and their hearts had to be right(2 Chron 30:18-20). So you see, even in the Old Covenant we understand that God required His people to do their best. What about the New Covenant? Are we exempt from trying to live a holy and pure life? Can we live haphazardly just so we don’t go to Hell and make it to Heaven? I don’t think so.

I think that we might assume that since Jesus was perfect we don’t have to be. But that’s not the case. Look at Matthew 5:48. Jesus said to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. In Hebrews 12:14 it states that without Holiness no one will see God. In 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul uses an illustration of running a race to win. Paul says to run to win. Not all win but only the one who runs to win. If we are living our lives in a lackadaisical manner thinking we are doing just good enough for God we will never win this race.

Consider this; there were men and women who held on to their faith and gave their lives instead of denouncing Christ. They believed Jesus’ statement that if they denied God before men He would deny them before God (Mat 10:32-33). Are we to believe we can barely get into Heaven and live happily for eternity missing Hell? Do we actually think God will allow us to do any less than those who willingly gave all?

My friends, I sincerely believe that the person who is not in right standing with God cannot be in right standing with his fellow man. Nor can the man who is not in right standing with his brother be right with God. John said that if we do not love our Brother we do not love God (1 John 4:20). Since this principal works both ways (our relationship with God and our Brother) it can be deduced that living halfway for God will mean we are living halfway for our Brother. In other words, if you do not care enough to give everything within you for God you are probably not giving everything for your spouse, supervisor, neighbor, country, etc.

Are you living so that you don’t lose heaven or are you living in a manner worthy of winning Heaven? Is your marriage one where you do what you have to do just so you don’t get divorced? Or, is it a marriage where you lay your life down for your spouse and live selflessly for them? One indication of both is that you no longer do what you did when you first were married or came to God. When I first came to God I was so sorrowful for my sin. For weeks I realized what a sinner I was and prayed constantly for God to use me. Then, the weeks and months went by and I began to go through the motions. My marriage was the same way. Once the honeymoon was over and I was sure I had won her heart I lived anyway I wanted. The courting was done and she was mine. Of course I always snapped to attention anytime things got rough and it looked like she would leave me. My marriage was lived just so I would not get divorced.

What an awakening it is when we realize that our problems are our own fault. My coldness with God was the reason my prayers were unanswered. My half-hearted approach to my spouse was the reason my marriage was rocky.

Would you consider your own life today? Are you doing just enough to get by or are you truly doing everything within your power for God and your Brother? Sadly, we live in a day when many churches teach that you can do whatever you want without consequences. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Starting today I encourage you to run the race to win. Your life will have so much more joy if you do. Your marriage will blossom into the beautiful ordained bond that it was meant to be. Your walk with God will grow sweeter than it has ever been.

Prayer-Father God, I pray that those who are living just enough in You to try and miss Hell would be shaken today. Change their hearts so that they see the joy of a fully devoted life to Christ. May we all live a little closer to You and each other than we did before.

In Jesus’ Name–Amen


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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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