03 May Winning in the End
When I was in third grade, I played softball for one year. I’m not sure why I wanted to play, but my team did not win a single game—so I decided softball wasn’t worth it and I quit. I decided if I wasn’t winning, it wasn’t worth playing.
Truthfully, I try not to participate in anything where there isn’t some likelihood of success for me to accomplish what I’ve set out to do. When this competitive drive in me is applied to my spiritual life, I need a lot of self-reflection to make sure I’m not elevating my desire to win over a desire to work toward a single purpose for which God has called me. I might have quit softball after one season of losses, but I cannot do the same for my spiritual walk with the Lord.
If it were up to me, I would like split times in my life, like there are in races. I would like to have a measure of success at certain intervals, so I could feel I was “winning” at being a Christian. I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but I do think some of us are wired to constantly keep score with God about how well we are doing on our journey to become more like Christ.
“I would like to have a measure of success at certain intervals, so I could feel I was ‘winning’ at being a Christian.”
My bent toward measuring spiritual progress with little “wins” along the way corrupts my vision of the heavenly prize because I instead focus on earthly “gains” and forget those are only part of a spiritual process that is developing me to be more like Christ. At the same time, disappointment in little “losses” along the way leads me to feel discouraged instead of remembering that I have been called on this path and that sometimes the process of becoming like Christ is difficult and challenging work. It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate moments of God’s faithfulness or recognize moments of suffering, but those moments are stepping stones toward a greater goal—not the end in and of themselves.
Paul says that we have to press on until the end. He tells us to forget the past and strain forward toward the prize we know is ahead. There isn’t time to look back and add wins or losses to our total score in our spiritual progress, but we can look back on our past to learn from previous successes and failures as long as we are not dwelling on them. We can learn from the peaks and valleys we experience in this life, but crossing the finish line is the measure of success—not the difficulties or wins that we encounter along the way.
“My bent toward measuring spiritual progress with little ‘wins’ along the way corrupts my vision of the heavenly prize . . . “
Paul’s words about our struggles in this life as believers and pressing on and striving toward the goal encourage me when I think of Who is ultimately responsible for the outcome of this journey. It was God who called me into a life to follow Him, and it is my obedience to that calling that presses on me to do something about it. It’s not the other way around. So when my pursuit of holiness is frustrating, or even painful at times, I remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:33:
“In this world you will have many troubles. But take heart! For I have overcome the world.”
“It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate moments of God’s faithfulness or recognize moments of suffering, but those moments are stepping stones toward a greater goal—not the end in and of themselves.”
Christ has already won the battle. He has called all who He has chosen into a life of spiritual progress, and if we stay the course He has set, we can be confident in His ability, not our own, to make it to the end.
The best part is that He’s at the finish line holding out our crown which for me will overshadow any small “win” or “loss” I felt like I had along the way. This “game” of life is not like softball for me. It’s a game worth playing because reaching the end with perseverance guarantees a win. I know I need to keep my vision cast far ahead as a constant reminder of what awaits those of us who love Him—the ultimate win—eternity in His presence.
While Jackie is officially employed as a physical therapist, she is also known around the church for baking chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes. She loves serving in Forge and recently just graduated her group of high school girls she has led for the past 4 years. Given a free day, she would love to spend it outside with her husband exploring a new place she’s never been before. Jackie attends our Pelham campus.