It was the last day of the state high school track and field championships. The most anticipated race would be the men’s 400-meter sprint. Two rivals were on deck: Billy Davis and Ricky Hall. Billy had won the majority of the races in which the two had met during their high school careers. But Ricky was having a stellar senior season. It was Billy’s race to win, but Ricky, the underdog, was the crowd favorite.
When the starter’s gun fired, the crowd erupted with screams. By the 200-meter mark, Billy was leading by a few strides. But suddenly, as if he shifted into overdrive, Ricky moved past Billy and around the last turn steadily increased his lead.
Suddenly, Billy grabbed the back of his right knee, slowing to a hobble and collapsing on the track. As Billy writhed on the track, Ricky broke the tape in victory. Everybody wondered: Did Billy Davis suffer an actual injury in the last stretch of the race, or did he feign a pulled hamstring once he saw he was going to lose?
Fortunately, that little story is fictional. It would be inappropriate of me to highlight an actual athlete who was accused of having a “loser’s limp”—though the existence of this well-known phrase in sports testifies to the fact that loser’s limp is real.
But athletes are not the only people capable of conjuring up excuses for why they failed to reach a stated goal. “Unexpected,” “unforeseen,” and “because of” are words usually employed to explain why a certain outcome was different than announced. Often there are very legitimate reasons for failure.
But I want to focus on the “loser’s limps” I have seen over the years in the Christian community. As Christians, we have great desires when it comes to our commitment to Christ. We want to be a great parent, a supportive spouse, a willing servant at our church, and a faithful disciple of Jesus. But too often we find ourselves making excuses for why we failed to meet our goals.
Getting to the Winner’s Circle
It’s not coming in last that makes us a loser; it is making an illegitimate excuse for why we stopped trying to do our best for Christ. Coming in first is great, but integrity, perseverance, honesty, and a pure conscience are more important.
So how do we cure a persistent case of loser’s limp using biblical principles? Here are five STEPS to consider:
1. Start small. If your goal is to have a half-hour devotional time each day six months from now, then start with ten minutes a day, three days a week, and go from there. If you try to do too much, too fast, you’ll likely grow discouraged and create an excuse for why you failed.
2. Train yourself. Make a plan and implement it over time. If you want to begin a nightly ritual of reading and praying with your young children at bedtime, give yourself time to implement a new parenting plan. Change requires hard work, but it also comes with divine approval.
3. Expect a blessing. If we know there are certain practices that are God’s will, then it stands to reason those practices will be accompanied by God’s blessing. When faced with making positive changes in your life that you know will please God, think also of the blessing from Him that will come with your faithfulness.
4. Prohibit excuses. Ask your spouse, children, and friends to hold you accountable when you make an excuse for not reaching a stated goal. Learn to take responsibility for your behavior.
5. Stay faithful and forgiving. A huge obstacle on the road to the winner’s circle is self-condemnation when we fail—and we will fail at times along the way. If you have purposed to get in shape and lose weight, and you fall off your diet on Monday, you can get back on it on Tuesday. Be faithful. Forgive yourself as God forgives you.
A Winner Is as a Winner Thinks
Winning in the Christian life is a matter of owning one’s relationship with Christ day-by-day, walking with Him in faithfulness and with integrity. It’s a matter of being “steadfast, immovable, [and] always abounding” in His work (1 Corinthians 15:58). When we live with that kind of mental and spiritual perspective, we will find ourselves in God’s winner’s circle when we stand before Christ, our Judge.
David Jeremiah is the host and founder of Turning Point and serves as the senior pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. For more information about Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
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