What Losing Teaches Us About Repentance

The Monday feature of the Worldly Saints blog focuses on a story from the sports world – current or historic. The point is to recognize athletes who are using their sports and athletic abilities to further the kingdom of God or to show how some athletes are wasting their days by not giving God the glory.

 

If you haven’t detected it already, I really don’t like losing. There was a day not too long ago in my spiritual journey when my teams losing on Saturdays would impact my emotional well-being on Sundays. I am not proud of those idolatrous years, but by God’s grace, I am not that man any more. But I distaste for losing not only remains but it has grown. I just don’t like to lose.

But here is the reality: everyone loses. In a marathon, there will be thousands of losers and only one winner. In a NCAA Basketball tournament, there will be sixty-three losers and one winner. All of us have lost and know what it means to lose.

So one question we could ask is this: if losing happens and we experience it so frequently, what can be gained from losing? In other words, how does losing make me a better person?

And to answer that question I have three answers (or lessons). And before I mention what those lessons might be, I ask you to consider this: losing is a lot like sin and learning lessons from our losing is a lot like repentance.

(ONE DISCLAIMER – This meditation is not a thorough dealing of repentance but perhaps gives some of the highlights along the way of moving from sin to repentance.)

LESSON #1 – When you lose, ask yourself, “What went wrong?” When a team fails to score more points than another team, it rarely is the case that the game was so evenly matched that either team could have won. Usually the losing team either gave the ball away too often or committed too many penalties, didn’t play hard enough, etc.

In the same vein, identifying the sin and the subtle compromises that led to that sin are critical to repentance. If you do not know your blind spots or where you are susceptible, you will sin likely again and soon! In Psalm 139, David prayed, “See if there is any wicked way in me” (vs. 24). He is saying, “If you find any sin, let me know about it.” He wants help in diagnosing the problem. Like losing (or sinning), David wants to know how he got to this dark place. Charles Spurgeon describes his petition this way:

“See whether there be in my heart, or in my life, any evil habit unknown to myself. If there be such an evil way, take me from it, take it from me. No matter how dear the wrong may have become, nor how deeply prejudiced I may have been in its favor, be pleased to deliver me therefrom altogether, effectually, and at once, that I may tolerate nothing which is contrary to thy mind. As I hate the wicked in their way, so would I hate every wicked way in myself.”

Find the problem that led to the sin (or loss).

LESSON #2 – When you lose, create a plan to get back on the winning track. Learn from your mistakes. Take the steps necessary to stop the losing.

Or you might spiritualize it this way: put on righteous deeds. Repentance is not just about putting off sin; it is putting on righteousness. It is finding the obedient behavior and thinking that needs to exist in our life in the place of the sin we have succumbed to.

If you think about it, this creating of a plan for righteousness to substitute for a path of unrighteousness (or losing) is how we got into the Christian life. It’s template began at conversion when we put off the old man and put on a new one – “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24).

LESSON #3 – When you lose, execute the win. To put it simply, stop losing and start winning. That may sound easier said than done, but in the spiritual life God gives us everything we need to win – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (I Cor 10:13).

What a powerful promise that we have form God that He always provides us a means to look at “loserdom” (or sin) in the face and say, “Not today, sucka! I am choosing God over you!” (Okay, that vocabulary may have been a little too “sportsy”, but that is the theme of this day’s blog.) God provides a way to escape each and every sin.

In conclusion, can losing be beneficial? Absolutely it can. Can we learn from our sin? Absolutely we can.

Don’t waste the moments to repent and grow from the losing in life.

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