Sinner or Winner?

This post was written in July of 2014

(1 Sam 17:1-7 NIV) Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. {2} Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. {3} The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. {4} A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. {5} He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels ; {6} on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. {7} His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.


Every Champion was once a contender that refused to give up. -Rocky Balboa


It might appear that a champion is measured by his or her physical stature if we look at how Goliath and Champion are connected in these verses. But, as the story unfolds we see that Goliath is defeated by a man much smaller than himself. So, how do I measure my future potential today in the ring of life? Do I measure my life by my stature, by my intelligence (or lack of ), or by the size of past successes or failures? Should we determine our future based on our past? If so, David should always feel pretty good about himself. He defeated “The Champion” that taunted the armies of God. So, David should live the rest of his life reminding himself of this one victory and remind everyone else that he is now the “reigning champ.” However, one victory does not a champion make.

College athletes don’t wear high school letter jackets after high school and professional athletes don’t often talk about their athletic accomplishments in college. Focusing on past success will prevent future accomplishments. We are not what we did, we are what we do.

Life would be great if we could keep the snapshots of only our victories, our champion moments, and we could somehow forget our losses. Is that really true, or even best? I don’t think so. It’s often our losses that teach us how to become champions. Our fallen nature, however, has a difficult time NOT measuring life and our future based on the losses in our lives. And, even if we get beyond our losses there will always be losers (those who quit) who attempt to make sure that we don’t forget our moments of defeat. Oh yeah, and some winners will also be available to rub salt in our wounds as well.


I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. Thomas A. Edison


The Wild World of Sports slogan was “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” None of us like defeat but defeat often causes enough pain that makes us want to get better, to change. It’s been said that no one changes much without experiencing pain. What do you remember about your past? Has it played a role in making you who your are today?

I wonder what David would say that he remembered most about his past if he was alive today? Here is what the church remembers about David, the reigning Champ.

He was a man after God’s own heart.

He was a man who played the harp, wrote psalms and worshipped God.

He was a man who killed the lion and the bear.

He was a man who was fierce in battle.

He was a man who abandoned his Kingdom so that people wouldn’t be hurt when Absalom was marching toward a hostile takeover of his kingdom.

Finally, he was the man who conquered Goliath the champion.

All of these attributes make me want to be just like David. I do believe that there was something very special about this man, yet he was just a man. During this season in my life I have taken the opportunity to study several bible characters in detail in order to learn how they navigated their tough times as well as their mountaintop moments.

Let's  look at David’s exploits in there entirety. David made a few critical missteps during his reign as king. Have we forgotten David’s “agony of defeat” moments? If you don't have any "agony of defeat" moments in life you haven't gone to battle. 

He was a man who was at home on his balcony when he should have been on the battlefield with his army.

A man who committed adultery with another man’s wife.

A man who then had the woman’s husband murdered.

What about a man (David), no a leader, who takes an unauthorized census and causes further tragedy among his people?

(2 Sam 24:10-15 NIV) David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing." {11} Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David's seer: {12} "Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.'" {13} So Gad went to David and said to him, "Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me." {14} David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men." {15} So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.

Talk about hurting a lot of people. It’s no longer just Bathsheba and Uriah that David betrayed, it’s all the people that he had been called to lead. Every preacher who has ever preached has preached at least one message about this “man after God’s own heart.” Yet, David was, using today’s vernacular, “jacked up". Or, at least made some really jacked up choices. So, do we view David as a winner or a sinner? Is it possible to be both? Is a winner a winner because he chooses to fight being a sinner? 


I think that David was a great champion because of “what” he had overcome more than “who” he overcame.


I think that David should be applauded for stepping into the battle with the God hater, Goliath. But, before he did that he had to be a Champion to overcome being an after thought of his father in 1 Samuel 16. When Samuel came to Jesse's house to anoint a king Samuel had to ask Jesse if he had another son after passing on the sons that Jesse had introduced him to. And, David had to overcome the criticisms of his brothers for even coming to the battlefield to bring them food during Israel’s stand off with the Philistines. There is always the “battle before the battle”; the battlefield of our minds, the losses of our past and the doubting others around us.


There is an old saying, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog that matters."


To me it also appears that this old saying might also be true of humankind. Our fight and tenacity may bear more significance than our physical stature or spiritual prowess. David was much smaller than Goliath physically but he was much larger spiritually. David had heart and conviction. It’s really not the giants in our lives that we should be concerned about. We should be more concerned about the size of fight, the giants,  in us, the size of faith in God that we posses. The problem is that our past often stands between us and future victories by veiling the presence and power of God in our minds. 

So, was David a Champion because he defeated Goliath or because he didn’t let his past sin prevent him from standing strong against, possibly,  even a bigger giant of a “stained” life. That’s right “stained”. Unlike us David didn’t have the luxury of having a Savior, someone to wash away his sin.  David's past stain would be visible in heaven as it was in earth. But, David didn’t let his stain stop him from being strong. We must NOT let the stain of losses overshadow our destiny. I am stained only in the eyes of those who will refuse to forgive. 

I have incurred a “Super Bowl” size loss in my life, even worse than that of the Broncos, in the 2014 Super Bowl. They were humiliated, stained by the Seahawks thrashing in front of a global audience. Their loss stained their reputation. Even though Denver will have an even better roster at the outset of the 2015 regular season there will be many doubters when it comes to them winning the upcoming Super Bowl. Why? Everyone will question the fight inside them. Can they overcome the “stain” of the humiliation of 2014? The Seahawks weren’t necessarily a better team, they just wanted the “W” more than the Broncos.

The fact is, “We can’t win em all”. We will suffer losses in life. Many people will never let me forget my loss….unless I live my life like a Champion and don’t let the stain of my past diminish the strength of my future. We are not Champions once and for all. And, living an undefeated life is impossible. A loss is a loss just like a sin is a sin. I have to tell myself that daily. Sometimes we lose in private and other times we lose on the big stage of life.

I would never want to downplay any sin, especially mine, but I do want to lift up the power of the cross that paid for our sin and removed our stain. 

Divorce, among Christians, is so common today that it’s no longer considered a “BIG SIN”, a big loss,  in the church. Somehow we figured out how to remove that stain and move on with life. I’m thankful for that because many great voices, men and women called to preach, were silenced because of the big “D”. Christians of the past, doing the best they could, allowed these precious divorced brothers and sisters of ours to be stained for life. Tragic! Not only did the divorcees suffer the pain of their loss but the church lost because they chose to sequester the gift of those who "failed" at marriage. Maybe we should think more about how we address people instead of how we address sin.

 


Jesus died for “people” to take away our “sin”; He didn't die for sin to take away people.


People were the focal point of Christ’s pilgrimage on earth, not sin. So, maybe we should work even harder to focus on people. 


John 3:16 makes it very clear. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  It doesn’t say, “God so hated sin that He sent His Son.”

One loss doesn’t make you a loser. Many losses don’t make you a loser. Refusing to get up and fight again is the only way that a person can become a loser. I’m not writing this to necessarily convince others of these truths (or theories) but I must daily remind myself that I, like David, still have the opportunity to become a Champion, so do you.