"Winning isn't everything, winning is the only thing." – Vince Lombardi
As a young kid our house was on a street half way up a hill. At the bottom of the hill, water would collect after rain. Often the water would sit for days or weeks and grow green algae in it. The water was so dirty that as a kid, I kind of assumed it was sewer water (it wasn't).
About fourth grade, a buddy of mine (we'll call him Mortimer) and I came up with a great game. We had an empty Coke can. This was when Coke cans were still made of tin. Pretty hard and impossible for a kid to crush.
To win, you had to hit your opponent in the head with a water filled Coke can, as he flew by on his bike as fast as his legs could go. Best game ever.
First up! Mortimer, standing on the curb, throwing that can at my head as I flew by on my bicycle!
It's a miss. Nothing but air! My turn.
Mortimer rode by as fast as the wind. I hurled that can of sewer water with all my might!
Rats. Clear miss. His turn.
This went back and forth for a while with no winner. We were either a) really fast bike riders or b) kind of uncoordinated. You decide.
Then it was my turn to throw again. I reared back that tin Coke can filled with vile liquid. Mortimer flew by, his skinny legs pumping that bike as fast as it would go. I threw as hard as I could. Mortimer ducked. But not far enough.
I HIT HIM! I HIT HIM! SMACKED HIM IN THE SIDE OF THE HEAD I DID!
Oh, glorious day! I hit him! Praise the Lord! The victory was mine! I was the triumphant champion of the sewer water throwing competition!
What happened next was quite shocking.
Little Mortimer fell off his bike and lay in the street with a bloody head. He seemed to be hurt. Who would've EVER seen THAT coming??????? Not us! You'd have to be a fortune-teller, witch doctor or clairvoyant to guess that outcome.
Young broken-headed Mortimer was whisked off to the emergency room by his parents, and the fun was all over for that day (never fear – he was fine the next day but for some strange reason not in the mood for another round Coke-Can-Smash-To-The-Head).
We were so stupid.
WINNING ISN'T ALWAYS THE BEST THING
Every day people go out into the world to win, without thinking through the consequences of winning. What will you win? What is the prize?
Wins the girl! Uh oh. The prize is losing his family, estranged from his kids because he happened to be married to another.
Wins the deal! Bad news. The prize is jail and/or the destruction of the company because the deal included normal business stuff you "just gotta do" to succeed (Enron, Arthur Andersen, Worldcom, the list is endless).
Wins the job! Oops! The prize is losing the kids because the hours are not compatible with familial interaction.
Wins the promotion! Wow! The prize is a spiritual train wreck because there's just no time for trivial and frivolous pursuits like Christ's church or Christian community in a small group or Sunday school because this particular promotion requires you sacrifice everything for the company.
Wins the guy or girl's hand in marriage! Yayyyy! Except the prize is a marriage that careens off into spiritual nothingness because the thought was, "they'll join me in spiritual pursuits AFTER we get married!" They rarely do.
Wins fame and fortune! Uh oh. The prize is a string of marriages, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, craziness and sadness (read biography of any number of superstars).
Winning isn't everything. It all depends on what you win.
It's been said that you can climb the ladder of success only to find that your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO WIN?
You SHOULD run to win. You SHOULD live to win. But ask yourself, "Win what?"
Mortimer and I could've saved ourselves some pain and blood (his blood not mine) if we'd just thought things through BEFORE we tried to smash each other's cranium with a can.
The Apostle Paul was all about winning. All of his life he pursued "the win." But it wasn't the right win until Jesus grabbed hold of him. Then, his race became very specific.
"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." 1 Corinthians 9:25
There's only ONE race that matters and ONE win that completely satisfies and blesses. And that's the race of following Jesus with all our heart soul mind and strength. Loving Him, blessing Him, following Him. And He gives to all who run His race the prize that never fades, never flounders, never falters – the prize of life forever and ever with Him.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion ..." Hebrews 12:1-2a (NLT)
The way to win ... is to run the race God has given you, and run it with your eyes always always always on Jesus.