All of us at times will feel we are losing. The scoreboard says we are way behind. The pundits are saying victory is impossible. Many feel they and their values are losing right now.
I have been greatly impacted by playing and coaching sports. Some of the things I have learned are:
How to push myself to do what I did not think I could do
How to sacrifice for a goal
The value of practice and the repetition of fundamentals
How to overcome adversity
How to understand my assignment, my role on a team, and the role of others
How to work with others
I remember times going into the locker room at half time when we were losing by a lot. Discouragement was growing because:
We were tired
We were disappointed
Our plan was not working
Our weaknesses were being exposed by a seemingly superior opponent
My teammates have made mistakes
I have made mistakes
The referees and officials seem to be favoring the other team and this feels like our biggest problem
We are playing at our opponent’s city and their crowd had been taunting us
We felt like we were the losers
Every team has a coach, and one of his or her most important skill sets is to help players deal with adversity and to keep optimistic, passionate, and moving forward when they are losing games and feel like their hard work is not paying off. Good coaches break off losing cultures from individual players and teams. They also help people see a bigger picture than the game they are playing now.
Sports teams go through highs and lows. There are years of great success, and there are down years where it looks like things will never change, but they almost always do. As I consider some of my favorite basketball or football teams over the last 40 years, I have concluded that the years of difficulty and lack of outward success were actually very beneficial because:
It caused a more thorough evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the team
It forced them to pay a greater price to improve
It created an urgency for innovative thinking so they could find better ways to do what they were doing
It helped keep them away from pride and complacency (which is the downfall of many successful teams)
Here is a word for those who feel like they are losing right now: This will actually turn into a blessing in the long run for you and those who hold your values. I believe it will be like Enterprise, Alabama. Their cotton crop was wiped out by the bBoll wWeevil, but it turned out incredibly good for them. They discovered that growing peanuts was more profitable than growing cotton. They were so excited about it that they built a monument in honor of the boll weevil.
Here is one more thing to consider. Just because something feels true does not make it true. (Feelings don’t validate truth, they just validate what we believe to be true.) During a time of fear and disappointment, Elijah thought he was the only one left (see 1 Kings 19). He thought that God and his team were losing badly, but God gave him a perspective upgrade by telling him there were 7,000 others who had not “bowed the knee to Baal” (I Kings 19:18). In other words, there were 7,000 times more positive things going on than what Elijah thought. I believe this is also true today.
Just because our circumstances seem to say we are losing does not mean we are losers.Our identity of being the victorious ones (Romans 8:37) never changes regardless of what “the score” seems to be in our lives and country.
As I close, I believe Psalm 37 is a chapter for this hour to help guide our beliefs and choices in this time.
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.