So we had the Super Bowl a few days ago, right? It was a good game. Everything I like about the Super Bowl was in this one: risky plays, cunning strategies, hard hits, touchdowns, sacks, and agonizing “oopses.” The kids and I enjoyed special food (hot wings!!!), and since we got a late start, we were able to fast-forward through the commercials and half-time schtick.
Every game has ups and downs as well as a winner and loser. Both the Eagles and the Patriots did a great job of exploiting the weaknesses in the other team’s defense, but both also had incompletions, missed kicks, goofs, and risks that didn’t pay off.
I’m just a Super Bowl spectator – I don’t bet on it, I’m not related to any player, coach, water boy, or vendor, and it isn’t a blow to my pride whoever wins or loses. My life is pretty much the same the day before the Super Bowl as it is the day after it. However, I do understand what it means to a player to be the victor in this famous championship game. They have achieved something that few do.
It’s a real accomplishment as a team. They’ve already beat everyone else in their division and conference; then they go up against the other team who has done the same. It is a grueling, hard-hitting feat of endurance, skill, and athletic prowess.
Others make it through special forces training, win competitions of endurance and strength, or reach pinnacles of success in business, sports, or exemplary performance of their duties. Their accomplishments are bright and shining milestones that stand out in their lives. Rings, trophies, insignia, and applause are only symbols of victory. None of the Super Bowl athletes competed merely to get the ring or the trophy.
But what if you don’t win? To be sure, making it all the way to the Super Bowl and losing would be a bummer. After all, everyone showed up at the stadium intending to win – right? You didn’t play in the Super Bowl, so where am I going with this?
First of all, failure is a bummer – we get that. But if winning has become your idol, and your identity is wrapped up in victory, then you wind up feeling worthless if you lose. Some of the Patriots players were bitter about the loss – poor sports; at least one is considering retirement now. It may be because they were standing on a false cornerstone – if they won the game, it meant they were something, but if not, then they were nothing. Paul had a different take: Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. (Philippians 3.8 NLT)
Second, don’t forget the journey. Striving for victory is about more than just attaining a trophy. The long march toward victory, more than the victory itself, molds your character, even if you are not the victor. In fact, sometimes it is clear that loss shapes you better than winning, and prepares you for life and ministry..