Monday, August 30, 2010

Higher Definition: Competing for God's Glory (Philippians 3:7-14)

“The problem with competition is that it’s almost always tied to self-promotion.”

I read an article called, "Is it a Sin to Win?" in which the above statement was shared. The statement is somewhat insightful, but misguided for at least three reasons. Reason #1: Competition is not properly defined in the article. Reason #2: The article assumes that competition is a problem. Reason #3: The statement seems to lack a Biblical perspective on competing for the glory of the LORD.

Based on the etymology of the word competition, the definition of the word is “joint seeking” or “striving together.” Often we assume competition has to do with individuals or groups battling against one another to see who is “top dog.” Competition is individuals or groups “jointly seeking” or “striving together” a common prize. Thus, when we return to the basics, much like when viewing an HD Television, we can more clearly see the detail within the bigger picture.

If we have no operational definitions, then we lack orientation. Lacking orientation often produces misguided assumptions. Defining words like “win,” “lose,” and “success” is necessary to understand the importance of allowing Christians to “jointly seek” and “strive together.” “Win” means “to overcome,” “attain by effort,” or “reach the mastery.” “Lose” means “ to be deprived of,” “not retain,” or “to give away; to waste or let go.” Success is “the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted” or “the discovery and mastery of that which is sought for.”

Clearly, these words in context of competition completely complement our Creator. After all, almost EVERYTHING in life is a competition by this definition because we are constantly jointly seeking, yes, even in Wal-Mart. We are ALL looking for that shortest line to check out or that special toy for our children that is selling like hotcakes or that new cd or latest video game. The LORD has made us for relationships in which we “jointly seek” and “strive together.” Paul often used competitive illustrations to awaken minds to spiritual truth. “Do you not understand that all who run in a race run, but only one receives the prize? So, RUN, in order that you might win. And every man who strenuously labors for the mastery is temperate in all things…I therefore run in this way, not without assurance; I fight in this way, not as one who swings aimlessly at the air; but rather I control my body, and make it my slave so that by any means, when I have preached to others, I am not disqualified,” (I Corinthians 9:24, 26-27). 

I believe with all my heart he encourages the saints to compete, i.e. “strive together, jointly seeking the same prize.” That prize is the extravagant of knowledge of God the Father and Jesus whom He sent (John 17:3; Philippians 3:7-14). Sports provide a perfect opportunity for all participants to learn how the body of Christ should encourage one another to continue to strive for the mastery of the LORD Jesus and through the rules and standards can more quickly point to the reality of sin than perhaps in other module.

Steven James, in the article “Is it a Sin to Win?” asks the question, “How can I love, serve, and honor someone I am wholeheartedly trying to defeat?” I answer that, by evaluating the heart. Here at Summer’s Best Two Weeks, we are dedicated to Hebrews 10:24, “And let us thoroughly examine one another to spur one another on to love and good works.” We teach that the point of sports is not to defeat your opponent. The point of sports and competition is to bring glory to the Father by exploring the gifts and talents He’s given and share them with the rest of the world for His glory. Listen, if we treat each competition, practice, and training as if we are doing it SOLELY for God's glory, then we will be REALLY tough to beat when we step onto the competition field, court, mat, etc.

Paul says in Philippians 3:7-10, “But the things that were advantageous to me, those I consider LOSS for Christ. Yes without doubt, and I count all things LOSS for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord; for whom I have allowed the loss of all things, and do count them as garbage, that I might WIN Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which comes through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which comes from God by faith. That I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made one who conforms to His death…” Paul redefined winning and losing, so that we might understand how to live successfully. When saying “ALL,” he includes some of the “good” things in his life, but he understands that the greatest good is the LORD and thus, he considers those “good” or even “great things” disadvantages. Through competing for Christ, we get the unique opportunity to renounce the world’s view of sports and competition and redefine winning, losing, and success biblically. We teach and learn that winning is pursuing excellence by doing our absolute best considering the gifts and talents the Lord has given, while serving others through including, encouraging, training (if possible), and challenging teammates and opponents. We teach and learn that losing is missing the mark of God’s standard by exhibiting selfishness and pride in competition and in any other part of life, whether shown in attitude or felt in the heart. We care less about who finishes first or last, gets the answers right, or overcomes the opponent. We care most about who achieves success through seeing him/herself in the bigger picture, which shows the beauty of striving together because generally how one competes is how he/she lives. Success is refusing to let God’s law of love depart from the mouth and mind due to sports, but rather letting a continual meditation on God’s Word bring a prosperous end, whether in sports or in life (Joshua 1:8).

Though the world has corrupted what God has given, let us not through out the baby with the bath water. Satan’s job is to pollute all things God has made, sports/competition included. We operate a Christian sports camp in order to preserve what the LORD has given us.

In conclusion, success is NOT about being the winner of the highest price or praise, as is seen most evidently in our culture through the decision of professional athletes this summer. Rather success is about being the winner of the highest prize, the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you pressing toward that mark?