But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

The thrill of victory.  The agony of defeat.  So much of what takes place in life involves “winners” and “losers.”  We see it most clearly in sports games or in armed conflicts.  It is also present in competitions in business, school, and in life in general.  Everyone wants to win and be part of the winning team.  No one wants to lose, and few have patience with constant loss.

Winning is sweet.  Far too often, winning goes unquestioned.  Everyone is happy when there is victory.  But when people begin to lose, everything is questioned.  Flaws and challenges come to the surface.  Discord often rears its ugly head.

Losing, however, is not always such a bad thing.  Humans tend to learn only by making mistakes.  Losing tests endurance and resolve.  Losing forces people to confront the difficult questions, and either continue to lose or to find a way to win.

So much of victory and defeat is mental and emotional – or, as it is said in sports so many times, games are most often won or lost before the players take the field.  Some teams win because of talent and skill – others just have a stronger desire to win.  Yes, many teams lose because of a lack of skill or poor execution, but far too often, such teams lack the will to win.  It is not as if there is ever a perfect team or a perfect situation– challenges, flaws, and discord can always exist.  Somehow, in some way, people find ways to be successful and victorious despite those flaws.  And yet there are also times when people with so much talent, opportunity, and ability fail to achieve the victory that would seem to come to them, either through indolence or someone else just wanting it more!

These matters are profitable for Christians to consider, for the Christian life is compared to sporting competitions (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-2), spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6:10-18, 2 Timothy 2:4-5), and even in terms of business success (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-27).  We run the most important race there is; we fight the most important battle in history; we earn the most valuable profits.  If we ever must pursue victory with everything we have, it must be in the spiritual arena!

When things go well in our lives as Christians, we do not question a lot of things.  We are happy.  It is when our lives begin to fall apart and/or we begin to fail that we begin to question.  Our flaws, challenges, and discord are made evident.  And yet those flaws and challenges were always there.  Discord is always just around the corner. We must endure difficulties and struggles in our faith in order to be refined and to be made ready for the ultimate victory (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-9).  These are not pleasant, and we always wonder why we are not always successful in God.  Character does not develop and mature through complete success – it is only when we are forced to confront our difficulties that we prove our mettle and whether we will shrink away and fail or endure and overcome (cf. Revelation 2:7, 12:11).

Victory and success is also an important mindset.  It is too easy for us to expect failure so as to never be disappointed.  This is precisely what losers do, and such losers, while rarely disappointed, do not amount to much.  Instead, we must believe that we can and must win, trusting in God’s firm Word to us that we shall have the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.  That victory may not seem very possible at times, and the situations we find ourselves in may be bleak.  This is when we must have the most fervent resolve to win no matter the circumstances, and trust in God’s power that we shall win.

A day is coming when the results of the ultimate contest will be made evident.  Those who have failed through their ignorance, desire to lose, or failure to serve God will obtain eternal condemnation (Romans 2:5-11, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).  Those who trusted in Jesus for victory, who wanted that victory more than anything else, and devoted everything in their power to obtain that victory will share in that victory (Matthew 6:33, Romans 8:17-18, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 15:54-58)– and the taste of victory will never have been sweeter (cf. Revelation 21:1-22:6).  How much do we desire to win it all?  Let us trust in God through Christ and devote all of our energies to His cause so as to gain the ultimate victory!

lesson by Ethan R. Longhenry