Winning Isn’t Everything!

December 10, 2009 | President's Slice
By Joe Hale

Difficulties are not without their advantages. They are not to unnerve us. They are not to be regarded simply as subjects for discussion nor as grounds for skepticism and pessimism. They are not to cause inaction, but rather to intensify activity. They were made to be overcome. Above all they are to create profound distrust in human plans and energy, and to drive us to God.
-John R. Mott

When asked to write for this issue, my natural tendency is to write about things I am currently experiencing, as these are the thoughts foremost in my mind.  This has been a hard year for me, filled with heartbreaking conflict.  Some would say conflict should not exist in Christian ministry, but it does.  Conflict is painful, especially when it comes in the context of ministry; the fact that it is inevitable doesn’t help much, as somehow, deep in our souls we just wish it would go away.

Conflict can cause us to become hardened, stubborn, or resentful, OR it can cause us to have some spiritual benefit.  I’m learning (the hard way) that conflict can:

1.  Lead us to healthy soul-searching--re-evaluation of decisions, asking yourself the hard questions like, “Did I pray about this beforehand?”, or “Do I really just want to have my way about something?” These hard questions are healthy for us to ask, if we do so honestly.
2.  Lead us to a deeper dependence on God and a greater acknowledgement of the inability in ourselves alone to find closure and resolve.
3.  Expand our perspective.  We get so used to seeing things from our own point-of-view that it is easy to think all the world sees things exactly the same way we do.  Conflict stretches our thinking and forces us to consider issues from another’s shoes; this helps us become a more rounded person in general.
4.  Give us clearer direction.  Sometimes God’s direction for our lives becomes more obvious when a conflict causes us to assess issues as to their importance in our lives.  We start to wade through questions like, “Is this issue worth sacrificing a friendship over, changing jobs over, or causing hurt to someone over?” The more we weigh that out, the easier it is to know what to do next.
5.  Force us to take a look at our human nature and see our pride.  Ah….ugly it can be!  But until we see ourselves as we really are, can we ever really see God for Who He is?  And if we don’t like what we see, when conflict reveals our ugliest parts, can we be satisfied, or will it drive us to our knees in humility?

And in the midst of these thoughts, I came across this article by Sherry Worel, Chair of the NICS board.  She offers some relevant information about conflict and I’d like to ask you to consider her opinion:

Winning Isn’t Everything!
By Sherry Worel

I am a sports nut. And for most of my life, I have giggled at an often-repeated sports cliché that says, “winning isn’t everything, but it is way ahead of whatever is in second place.” When I played sports in high school (volleyball, basketball, softball and a little track), I played to win. I still like to compete—only now it is a board game or mental contest of some sort that challenges me.

So I can certainly understand the competitive drive to win. The thing is though, as a Christian, my acute sense of competition has been overlaid with an even more important concept: the concept of respect. I still want to win, but not at all costs.

That is why I was pretty disgusted with the big cross-town rivalry this past weekend. The annual week of “smack talking” culminated in a hard fought football game that left both teams with tarnished colors.

For those of you who do not read the sports page, let me share the details. UCLA and USC slugged it out on the field for almost the entire game. With 54 seconds to go and USC up 21-7, the coach of USC told his quarterback to hike the ball and take a knee. It is the polite way to end a game when you are winning big. It signals the other team that you have no desire to rub their noses in the loss. But across the field, the coach of UCLA called a time out. He had three time outs he could call, so it appeared that he planned to call them all and then get the ball back-with 2 seconds to go in the game. Not a realistic plan, more of an “I am not about to let you end this game on your terms” sort of thing.

Not to be outdone, the winning coach scraped the plan to end in grace and instead had his quarterback fling it downfield for another touchdown. Two grown men, who should have had much more class, figuratively thumbed their noses at their opponents and their choices almost started a riot.

Parents, teachers, scout leaders, coaches and other mentors spend countless hours trying to train young people to respect each other. We make kids line up at little league games and tell the other team “good game,” even if they lost. We have the basketball players huddle up and chant, “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate...” even when the other side dominated them. It is all an attempt to remember that winning isn’t everything.

David clearly understood that concept. For many years, Saul, out of jealousy, chased David around the Judean hills trying to kill him.  David and his band of “mighty men” fought back. They wanted to win. They wanted to win so badly that on one occasion (I Samuel 24), David snuck up on Saul in a cave and cut off part of his robe. It was a kind of “I gotcha” gesture. But soon afterward, David was conscience-stricken and he declared, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

David wanted to win. He wanted the prize; he wanted to be king of Israel. But he had respect for his adversary...so much so that he twice stopped his men from killing Saul.

There is a real lesson in that story. A lesson all our kids need to know. It is one thing to try hard to accomplish a goal. Excellence in every endeavor is called for in life (I Cor. 10:31). But we need to remind everyone (including ourselves) that mutual respect triumphs over any score, in any game, at any age!

For excellent further reading on Biblical conflict and leadership, check out A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards.

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