He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Rev. 3:21-22
I realize that God’s throne is far more than simply “the victor’s throne”, but there is a bit of that in there, isn’t there? The One who sits enthroned over all the nations, who sets up kings and deposes them, who is the beginning and end of all things is the One to whom the throne belongs. He “wins the day”, His will is done over every other will, even my stubborn resistant one, and His ways win out over every subversive opponent. God’s glory, goodness, purity, love, grace, justice, peace and exhaustive redemptive plan wins and defeats death, decay, division and dissent. Remarkably, beginning in Genesis 3, God counts us as one of His team in the victory, even when we deliberately identify ourselves with the opponent, as Adam and Eve did. Amazing love.
I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Rev. 2:9-10
My problem, as I mentioned to some friends last night, is that I really like winning too much. I expect to win and my heart demands to win, even though statistically and practically “you can’t win ’em all”. In elementary school P.E., have mercy on us all if Devin Wylie and I didn’t get put on the same team. We were the most competitive people in the class and would remain red faced and determined to defend our dominant position against one another for an extended time after P.E. if one of our teams had beaten the other. I am different now only in form but not in practice. When my dog won’t obey or my children aren’t conforming to my image or my neighbor has a different style of relational engagement, I leave red faced(even if just in my chest) and raging(even if just in my heart) for an extended period of time “after class”. I need to win (not just the game, but the discussion, the prize for coolness or for style choices, the way things are done around the house, and any number of other scenarios where two opposing ideas/methods/styles/perspectives encounter and confront one another).
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34-35
My need to win, to have my way, is indicative of the fact that I am far more committed to saving my life, preserving my life, fortifying my person than I am to Jesus and His very good news. I am so fiercely protective of and committed to my will being done and my image being glorified that I lose sight of the reality of His will being not simply better, not just truer, but the only will that will be done and that will conquer all, including me.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3
Winning has everything to do with my own pleasure. My need to “win” my will in each situation shifts my desire into a demand which then becomes more important than God and the person and work of Jesus in my heart and the lives of others. And practically, no matter what current trends are in elementary school field days, in order for me to win, the other person must lose. It is pretty hard to love as Jesus loves while simultaneously needing the person I am supposedly loving to lose. Or put a different way, as long as my heart requires being in the superior position, my “love” is at best condescending and self-serving and at worst demeaning and disingenuine.
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 1 Cor. 9:19
What if my aim for winning were to become focused on the hearts of others toward Jesus? What if the victory I began to crave was the one already secured by Jesus? What if He changes my heart in such a way that I could begin to genuinely embrace losing all of myself for the sake of the gospel’s victory in the people and in the world around me? The narrative of redemption is through suffering to glory without a shortcut. The restoration process which moves us from seeing in a mirror dimly to face to face perfect vision requires passage through the desert to the promised land, through silence to celebration, through darkness to light and through death to life. Losing all to win even more is the way of the cross and the life of Jesus into which we are invited. It is grace that He carries me through this process of losing even when I don’t want to go. It is grace that He will complete the good work that He has begun. It is grace that has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead home. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30