Every sports team in history longs for a perfect season—a record with nothing but a whole number and a zero in the record books. In 2007, the New England Patriots were 16-0, not losing a single regular season game. And in 2008 the unlikely happened again—another perfect season, this time for the Detroit Lions. Only their perfect season was 0-16 instead of 16-0. That’s right—the Lions had a perfect season in 2008: zero wins and 16 losses. In their case, the perfect season was “perfectly awful.”
Winning While Losing
The truth is, everybody likes to win. But from our earliest years, our ability to count means we’re all about wanting to win—whether in sports, Monopoly, or life in general. That’s fine, as long as we’re prepared to lose as well. If we’re the New England Patriots one year, chances are good we may be the Detroit Lions the next. Everybody hits a losing streak at some point in their life.
The good news is that it’s possible to win while losing. And in a spiritual sense, the Bible suggests that we win more in terms of spiritual maturity when we lose than any other time. Don’t forget—Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus Himself “learned obedience by the things which He suffered,” not when He was being praised by the crowds. So apparently there is winning to be found in the midst of losing.
Job’s Losing Streak
One of the longest personal losing streaks in history can be found in the life of our old friend Job, that problem-plagued patriarch from the Old Testament era. We don’t know exactly how long his losing streak lasted, but it was long enough that it required forty-two chapters of the Bible to tell the story. But Job’s losing streak is not just about losing—it’s about winning in the end.
You probably know the basics of Job’s story: He suffered an unparalleled number of personal losses in just a matter of days. He was attacked by raiders who stole his donkeys and oxen and killed his servants; a lightning strike destroyed his sheep; more raiders stole his camels and killed more of his servants; and a storm destroyed the house where his ten children were gathered, killing them all.
So Job’s losing streak included the loss of his property, his servants, and his children. He had nothing, which made him tangibly as poor as the poorest man in his land. But his losing streak was even worse: He was tormented by the memories of what God had once blessed him with, and he had no idea why God had allowed it to be taken away. His three friends and his wife were of no help—they encouraged him at best to confess whatever sins had caused his losing streak, or, at worst, just to curse God and die (Job 2:9).
But Job fought back. He was convinced of his innocence and uttered thousands of words in self-defense. All well and good except for one thing: Job lacked the understanding that God was God—and Job wasn’t. That is, Job was a righteous man in terms of his behavior (Job 1:1), but his picture of God was inadequate. He didn’t understand that God might be allowing his losing streak for some purpose other than punishing him for sins.
God remained quiet all during Job’s eloquent protestations of his innocence, and then He revealed Himself. And as soon as Job saw who God really was, his losing streak ended. Because that was the point of the whole experience: God wanted Job to see Him as a trustworthy God who desired to draw him into an even deeper relationship than before. Job saw and believed (Job 42:1-6). Job became a winner in spite of his losing streak when he realized that God had a purpose that went deeper than his personal possessions and prominence in the world.
Yes, God restored Job’s fortunes so that he was wealthier than before. But that wasn’t the point of the losing streak coming to an end. Job needed to go through the valley of despair in order to learn that God was in control all along.
Contrary to cultural conditioning, there is value in going through a losing streak as long as we go through it with God. If we keep our eyes on Him and His Word, and keep our hearts attuned to what He shows us in the midst of the downturn, we will realize those victories reserved especially for those who keep score God’s way.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, and serves as Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. For more information Turning Point go to www.DavidJeremiah.org