Finding God's Winning Spirit


December 16, 2013 | Greg Smith | Sports


The goal of any athlete is to win. In athletics winning is everything. John Madden once said, “The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else.” Paul (Bear) Bryant has been quoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything but it sure beats the hell out of anything that comes in second.” We all have heard, and probably agree, that “nobody remembers who came in second.” Every kid on the playground fantasizes about making the shot at the buzzer to win the big game; they don’t dream of missing the shot or coming in second.

We live in a “win or lose” culture — it is all or nothing. It appears to me that this is a pretty limited definition of winning. Living by this definition provides very few winners and a whole bunch of losers, very little success and a lot of failure. The advantage of being followers of Christ is that we do not have to live by this standard of “winning”. Winning in this sense is defined by the world and those of us who follow Christ are not driven by, limited by, or valued by worldly things.

Although it is true that we are obsessed with winning it goes much deeper than this. My concern is this is just one more indication that the real threat to the Christian life is materialism and what this world promises (which is pretty much everything Satan tempted Jesus with in the wilderness). When I wrote the book Sports Theology-Playing Inside Out it was my intention to use sports as a way to show that the principles of the Christian faith could be used to perform at the highest level. One of the premises of my book was that the Christian athlete could actually perform better using the gifts God had given with less stress on the worldly outcome.

Early in the process of writing this book I asked a sports agent to read some of what I had written. Quite frankly, their response was not positive. The biggest point of contention to what I had written was in reference to winning. In this agent’s view and experience being a Christian had no bearing on an individual’s ability to be successful. She had represented Christian clients that had done everything that a Christian should do and yet never reached the top. According to this agent these particular athletes prayed, lived clean lives and gave God the glory for all they did yet many failed to “make it.” They were not immune from getting hurt or cut, if and when they even reached the top. In this agent’s view there is no validity to sports theology because it “does not pay off when it counts.”

The more I thought about this agent’s response the more I realized how important the concept of sports theology really is. This particular agent’s view is indicative of the limitation of human thinking, which attempts to evaluate spiritual things in worldly terms — to take the big picture and make it small. The problem comes from us defining what success or winning means and then holding God accountable to our definition. This is backwards.

Simply put, being transformed by Christ allows us to redefine success; not letting our previous carnal view of success validate our faith. In Sports Theology we only talk about winning in reference to God’s winning spirit. This is the same spirit that filled James when he wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

If your definition of success is an earthly one then you will never have the winning spirit. If your affirmation or self-worth comes from the world then your life is built on shifting sand. God does not promise us success (in our terms) but he does promise us a Spirit, a winning, powerful, spirit that will carry us through and beyond pain, defeat and failure. That is the winning spirit – it is the Holy Spirit.

As followers of Christ we are victorious. There is no coming in second or losing. God is competitive and constantly competes for our salvation, and it goes without saying, that he plays to win. Once again, limited by our human perspective, we forget that the real game is being played at a higher level and with much more at stake – and we are already victorious.


(Excerpt from Sports Theology – Finding God’s Winning Spirit)


Absolutely right on!
Posted by Joelene Vickers on
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