Several weeks ago many of us sat glued to
our TV sets as we watched the Super Bowl. During the game you
could see the desire for winning on the faces of the players
on both teams.
You could see the passion for winning
on the faces of the spectators in the stands. It was as if at
that moment nothing else really mattered to the players and to
the fans, but winning.
I'm a big Maryland basketball fan and
as I watch the team play I can see the desire to win is
prevalent on the minds of the basketball players and their
coach Gary Williams. So much so that Gary's passion for
winning drove him to the hospital several years ago.
The students get into the game so much
they are whipped into a frenzy when a long three-point shot is
made or when a slam-dunk is hammered home.
Well I too am a very competitive
person, although I would like to think I've calmed down over
the past 10 years or so.
But before my calm period took hold I
was very competitive in all sports participated in. One of the
sports I enjoy playing is volleyball. Before Susan and I had
kids we used to play on a co-ed volleyball team together.
Now one lesson I learned was, a
husband and wife playing on the same team may not be such a
great idea, but nevertheless we did. Well one night we were
playing a very good team and winning the match was key for us
getting into the playoffs. That night I was playing pretty
hard, looking to spike the ball at every opportunity, wanting
desperately to not only win, but to dominate the other team. I
was obsessed with winning; to the point I was diving on the
floor after balls and so on.
During a time out Susan strongly
suggested I calm down reminding me, "it was only a game and
that the goal was to have fun, not just to win the game."
I immediately fired back and said, "If
winning doesn't matter then why are we keeping score." Well
the rest of the night is a blur now, but I'm sure the
conversation didn't end after that time out. And it was
probably a long ride home as well.
The point is as humans we have a deep
passion for winning, perhaps to varying degrees but we like to
win. We are competitive in all aspects of life whether it be
sports, business, bingo, war, you name it, we want to win!
We want to be viewed as winners, and
successful in the eyes of our peers and friends. And of course
this need to win leads some to unethical and immoral
practices, cheating, and so on, just so one can say they've
You may remember Tanya Harding who
used force to try to rid herself of her competition in Olympic
ice-skating. And every year we learn of athletes who take
steroids to get that slight edge, which hopefully will take
them over the top.
Politicians, bent on winning, use
negative practices to tear down others during debates or
campaigns. Leaders of the world's countries suppress the
messages of reform out of fear of losing personal power. So
like many aspects of life, winning can be either a positive or
a negative experience.
Well today I want to focus on winning
as presented to us by Paul in his first letter to the
Paul, in our Epistle reading today
expressed a clear passion for winning. His passion was not
self-focused, but rather included making all people winners in
the eyes of the Lord.
In his mind, Paul was running a race
against time. He believed the second coming of Christ was
close at hand, and that people needed to be moving towards
Christ immediately in order to receive eternal life.
This was such a passion of Paul's that
he became, "a slave to everyone." To the Jews he became like a
Jew, to win the Jews for Christ. To those under the law he
became like someone under the law, to win disciples for
To those not having the law, he became
like them so they might receive Jesus. To the weak Paul became
like them to help them become strong in Christ.
Paul became all things to all people
so that some might see the light of Christ and be saved. And
just so there's no confusion, when I say Paul became all
things to all people, I mean Paul sought to understand the
people he met so that he could be more effective ministering
Can you imagine what God's kingdom
would be like if we approached spreading, proclaiming, and
living the Word of God with the same passion that we have for
winning sports events or reaching the top in our business
In the context of first Corinthians,
Paul offers us several important principles for ministry,
which we ought to employ as individuals and as Christ's
church. And these principles are every bit as important today
as they were in the time of Paul.
The first principle calls us to make
others feel accepted. Sometimes this can be a difficult thing
to do. I think it's safe to say that we don't purposely go out
of our way to make people feel unaccepted or unworthy. At
least I'd like to believe that's the case.
But nevertheless, the truth is
sometimes we do, whether we realize it at the time or not. We
may not realize we are being exclusive or unaccepting, but to
others it may seem that way, and we need to be aware of these
If we're not careful we can become so
interested in developing what Tommy Tenney calls a
"comfortable cult." Meaning we are at ease with our
comfortable building, our comfortable pews, and our
comfortable circle of friends, to the point where we forget
about the hundreds of discontented, wounded, and dying people
who pass by our comfortable church every day.
And frankly, if we ignore these folks
and don't keep trying to reach them with the gospel of Jesus
Christ, then God sure wasted a lot of blood on Calvary.
Are we a welcoming church? Do we
accept others as they are? The second principle involves
getting to know others and being sensitive to there needs and
There are many hurting people in our
community. I can't imagine what it must be like to be hurting
and to not know Christ. Without Christ there is no hope, and I
can't imagine living a life without hope.
Hope and Jesus go hand in hand. You
can't have one without the other.
But there are thousands of people who
live without hope, many walk or drive by this building with
regularity. We need to be a beacon of hope, to be seen as a
place where the spirit of the Lord reigns above all else, and
a sanctuary where one can find peace.
To this end we need to better
understand the needs of those in our community. This was
Paul's goal as he sought to be like those he ministered to. He
wanted to be more than just empathetic to their needs; he
wanted to get to know them so he could be a more effective
minister to them.
This is our mission, to understand the
needs and concerns of those in our community so that we can be
effective ministers to them, helping them come into a
relationship with the hope of the world, Jesus Christ.
The third principle Paul's speaks to
is the need to be looking for opportunities to tell others
We live in a spiritually thirsty world
right now. You can't tell me people aren't thirsty for God
when they wear crystals around their necks, lay down hundreds
of dollars a day to listen to so called gurus, and call
physics to the tune of billions of dollars per year.
These folks are thirsty for spiritual
meaning and are looking beyond the church to find it. Or worse
yet, they are involved in a church and still can't find the
depth of spiritual understanding and inspiration they seek.
We have a special message, we have the
truth, we have the living water, which will quench their
We must create opportunities to tell
others about Christ. And when opportunities arise we need to
take advantage of them, not in a coercive way, but in a loving
Christ didn't say if you feel like it
pick up you cross and follow me, he said simply pick up your
cross. Jesus didn't say if you feel like it go and make
disciples, he said GO. In other words, helping others come to
Christ is not just something we are to do if we feel like it,
it's an obligation.
And our last principle calls us to
live the faith we profess. It's just not enough to speak the
words of faith we must live them. I'm convinced those who live
the faith, and I mean really live the faith 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, not just one hour on Sunday mornings, do
more for winning disciples then any one single act we can
If you're wondering what you can do as
a disciple to help win people to Christ, begin by actively
living the Christian faith. As you do, God will lead you into
Our scouts here today strive to live
by a higher standard, and pledge to live by the scout law. And
as they live by the scout law they are very much living a
Scouts strive to be: trustworthy,
loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful,
thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. All very much Christian
principles. We all ought to incorporate the scout law in how
Paul's passion was centered on winning
disciples for Christ. Paul's desire was to preach the word of
God and to help people come to receive Christ before it was
So as you can see winning from a
Christian perspective isn't about crossing the finish line
first, it's about helping others cross the finish line with
This past week I came across a great
short story, which explains Paul's passion for winning very
well. You may have heard this story before, but even so I
think its worth retelling because it really puts winning,
Paul's kind of winning, into perspective.
Every year thousands of athletes from
all over the world gather for the Special Olympics. The
fanfare, the celebrities, the music, the excitement are nearly
as grand as the regular Olympics.
These athletes know what it means to
give their best. They've trained for months and some for
years, and they truly have a passion for winning. Several
years ago, five handicapped finalists gathered at the starting
line. Their hearts were pounding. Each wanted to win. The
starters' gun went off and the athletes exploded from their
crouched positions, and began running with all their heart.
The crowd stood and was on there feet shouting and cheering as
the athletes began their race.
Suddenly one of the runners stumbled
and fell flat on his face. He struggled but couldn't seem to
get up. A moan, and then a hush, fell over the entire stadium
as the fans watched.
In the next moment, another child
stopped running and reached down and helped the fallen child
back up. The two of them finished the race together. This is
what we are called to do as disciples of Christ.
In our desire to win the race of life
we ought to stop, or at least slow down long enough to help
others up, to help them run the Christian race with a passion,
so that many might receive their heavenly reward.
Know that in the end God isn't looking
for religious people; he's looking for people who have a
passion for chasing after him. God wants people who want him,
and want others to want him, more so then they want his
I believe this generation is on a road
to revival, you can just feel it. This offers all Christians a
great opportunity to win disciples for Christ.
Now we can simply choose to seek God's
blessings and play with the toys we have been blessed with; or
we can say, "No God, we don't just want the blessings; we want
more, we want you, and we want others to know you.
We ought to move closer to God by
asking him to touch our minds, touch our ears, touch our eyes,
touch our hands, touch our feet, and touch our hearts so that
we can develop a passion for winning life's race, and in turn
can help others come to know the living God. Amen
Read other messages by Pastor Wade