“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, of course, is known for the line, “Just win, baby,” while Chiefs’ head coach Herm Edwards in recent years became known for the mantra, “You play to win the game.”
And of course, being a huge Chiefs’ fan myself, I appreciate the fact that Herm Edwards puts so much effort into winning–and especially into beating the Raiders.
Whenever we have a goal before us that means anything, we should strive for it with our whole being. 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 told the team yesterday 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. 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. 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 had my soccer-playing daughters learn:
“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!