Playing to Win

28 Aug

Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” This quote, attributed to the late coaching legend Vince Lombardi, illustrates our society’s obsession with winning. The Raiders’ Al Davis is known for the line, “Just win, baby,” while ESPN analyst and former Chiefs’ coach Herm Edwards is famous for the mantra, “You play to win the game.”

And of course, being a huge Chiefs’ fan myself, I always appreciated the fact that Herm Edwards put so much effort into winning–and especially into beating the Raiders!

Whenever we have a goal that is really important to us, we strive for it with our whole being. Yet while it does matter–at least to me–that the Chiefs win, how the game is played also matters greatly. My daughter’s soccer coach once told the team that “winners encourage each other and don’t give up.” I thought that was a wonderful lesson for the team.

My point today is simply that if we’re going to invest so much in winning a game or sports competition, how much more should we invest ourselves in winning the imperishable crown of heaven. Have we made Christ the center of our lives? Are we playing to win? “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force” (Mt. 11:12). The victory is there for the taking, but are we committed to giving our lives over to Christ? Or are we wimps who don’t really want to lose, but are unwilling to do what it takes to win?

Athletics provides many vivid analogies for teaching and living the Christian faith. This wasn’t lost on St. Paul, who frequently used athletic imagery to teach spiritual truths. Here’s a passage that I’ve taught to my sports-playing children:

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Let’s be winners in the spiritual life, running toward the imperishable crown, not giving up, and encouraging others–our spiritual teammates–on the journey. Let’s start anew today. Just do it!

One Response to “Playing to Win”

  1. Deacon Dana Nearmyer August 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    As a varsity soccer coach at St. James Academy, we would echo your thoughts. We celebrate each moment of team play by offering up our effort, suffering and joy for the soul another at each practice and each game. In practice we do this in oral proclamation of names, as part of our opening prayer, and in games we were athletic tape around our wrists with the name of soul that we offer up that game for. We invest ourselves in winning the imperishable crown of heaven for ourselves, our community and those most in need of God’s grace. Thank you for the encouragement. Going to heaven, not pro, is our prayer for those in sports.

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