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Beyond Competition


Mark 8:36

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

The Olympics are over for three years. Covid delayed the 2020 Olympics, but they are back on track for London 2024. Many athletes will invest a great deal of emotional and physical energy into becoming the best they can be for the next Olympic competition. They want the Gold Medal. They want to be a winner.

This competitive spirit drives many of us; not all, but many. We will compete to prove ourselves. We want to be the best. Some of us even cheat and lie so that we can appear the best to others. And if we can’t compete ourselves, we align with someone, or a team, so that if they win, we also consider ourselves winners. Some people invest their emotional energy and financial energy into a team with the hopes that they, along with their team of choice, are winners.

I can’t begin to try to explain this phenomenon … why people want to be better than someone else. I can only think the ego has us believing we still need to protect ourselves, and fight for survival. There was a time in our ancient prehistoric stages where we had to forage and hunt for food. Although we would use our clan to survive, competitive clans were a threat to our very existence. It benefited us to become as strong and adept as possible so we could eliminate our competition and secure our sources of food, water, protective clothing, and shelter.

But even though the times have changed and the resources for survival are more plentiful, the ego continues to tell us that we need to be better than others, so that we can take what we want because we deserve it. We will hear that whisper occasionally – for that desire to be considered a winner emotionally, financially, or socially. We certainly don’t like being a loser. In our society, winning is good, losing is bad.

This is a tough lesson for children and even adults to learn: losing in a sport or endeavor has nothing to do with the value and worth of an individual. Although we can read these words, understand these words, and believe these words…it is still tough to apply to our lives.

It is one of the worldly values that ensnares us and is so ingrained that we continue to align with political candidates, sports teams, Academy Award winning Best Movies ...with almost everything, as we supply our emotional energy and other investments toward the outcome.

Advertisers use this mentality effectively. If that deodorant does a better job, if that car is heralded louder, then we better buy it so we can be part of the winners. We feel on top of the world when our person, team, or movie wins, and we feel justified in our emotional commitment. If the diet we prefer is lauded by some expert, we feel vindicated for our efforts.

We feel slighted, defensive, and discontent when whatever we were backing loses. Regardless of the reason for this mindset, there are times when we feel like we have lost, that we are a loser in some regard. We feel isolated, alone, and outcast. We feel ugly or dumb; embarrassed and unworthy.

We don’t need to know the cause to start making changes that can help bring balance and peace to our minds and lives, as well as to those around us. We don’t need to be accomplished to make progress. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians 3:12-14: I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his.

Here are 11 ideas to consider when the darkness of unworthiness or being a loser overcomes us:

1. We aren’t done yet; we are still evolving.

As we become more aware of God’s Presence within us, we allow a divine process to unfold. We become more like our Creator as we express more of our Creator into Creation.

“There is no such thing as instant transformation,” says Dave Early in his book Living in His Presence. “It is an ongoing process of ever-increasing glory. Our character is transformed little by little, a bit at a time.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 - And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2. We are not alone.

When we feel we are losing, we sometimes feel that God has forsaken us. That is illusion. God cannot forsake us; He will supply our needs.

Psalm 9:10 - Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

3. Get into action.

God calls us to serve, to go out into the world and allow Spirit to flow through us; to be the best that we can be as a vessel for God, despite the challenges and difficulties that arise.

John A. Shedd wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

4. Learn to appreciate our uniqueness.

At times we may feel awkward and out of place, but God sees us through the eyes of perfection. We are perfect where we are; uniquely made to express God as only we can.

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion,” wrote Francis Bacon.

Ecclesiastes 3:11- He has made everything beautiful in its time.

5. We learn and grow through the difficult times.

When we feel we are losing, let us remember that the challenges we face are the means through which God prunes us, strengthens us, and forges our character.

Goethe wrote, “Talent develops in quiet, Character in the torrent of the world.”

Helen Keller shared this insight: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

6. Yes, we can.

Whatever temptations and pressures burden us, they have been faced by someone else. Our test is to be faithful to God’s guidance. We were made to bear whatever we encounter on this earth. There is nothing too difficult for us.

Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Nothing happens to any man that is not formed by nature to bear.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

7. Laugh.

A Minister once taught not to take life too seriously; to ‘keep a giggle in it.’ Taking a step back and seeing our trials from a new perspective can release some of our burden. Read the funnies, watch a comedy. Enjoy some friends. Learning to laugh at ourselves and our futile attempts to control things allows room for the peace, love, and joy of Spirit to flow in and through us.

“The most wasted day of all is that in which we have not laughed,” wrote Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort.

Proverbs 17:22 - A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

8. This too shall pass.

Although we may be facing challenges at this moment, they are temporary. We must have faith that God knows precisely what is best for us. We must trust that God is pruning us so that new growth and full bloom are the result.

Greg Laurie wrote, “But God, in his infinite skill, blends all things in our lives and cooks them in the oven of adversity. One day we shall be able to see them fully transformed. Then we can taste that they are good. For now, we must believe it.”

9. God is in control.

When we feel the sting of losing, we can remember that God is in control. Through whatever we face, God is loving us, transforming us, perfecting us, opening us, and raising our awareness of our divine nature.

James 1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when

troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

10. Losing is winning.

There is joy to be found in helping others. To lose our ‘self’ in giving to others is to win the greatest gift God gives offers – life in Christ.

Elbert Hubbard wrote in The Philistine, “Down in their hearts, wise men know this truth: the only way to help yourself is to help others.”

In Mark 8:34-35 - If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

11. The last lesson is one taught by Christ, summarized as “… to be in the world but not of the world”. This is the lesson of non-attachment: When we can observe any situation without being affected by it, when we can enjoy possession

s but not be their slave, when we can observe our thoughts and emotions and not let them dictate our actions, then we are non-attached. Non-attachment is knowing that who we are, our consciousness, cannot be affected by the World.

When we live from this perspective of non-attachment, we remove the ‘self’ from the observance: we can watch events unfold and not invest our emotional energy. We rise above judgment and competition and can enjoy the process regardless of the outcome. We can watch the Super Bowl and enjoy the game without the emotional swings. We can see our political candidate win or lose without feeling a sense of either gloom or elation. We can still enjoy our favorite movie even though it didn’t win an award.

When we are non-attached, we see God in all the options, in all the teams, in all the candidates, in all the movies. God is present in every choice; we are simply transformed more quickly by God through some choices than others.

It is my prayer that we will engage the world from a new perspective and see how winning and losing make no sense. In God’s infinite love there is always more than enough; there is no loss, only winning. Competition is all about ‘me’, all about mine - my tribe, my interests, my goals. But God asks us to move beyond competition, beyond the self. I pray we will hear the words in Philippians 2:3-4 - Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only

to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let us pray.


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