[CF Devotionals] 2007-07-12 - Not About Winning or Losing

Luke 22:60-62 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times." 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. (NASB)

For those of you who don't know, I teach marital arts. I had an interesting experience this evening. After another instructor and I had worked on sparring with a young man he plopped down looking very dejected. I wasn't sure he wasn't just tired, so I let him go for a few minutes. When he continued to look dejected I asked him if he was alright. He explained that he felt bad because he had lost. I quickly told him I had thought he had done very well and what we had just done was not about winning or losing. It was about training. This young man has only sparred eight to ten times. Between myself and the other instructor we have sparred hundreds of times including some high level competitions. For him to compete against either of us would be unrealistic.

This is very very much like life as a Christian, and even life in general.

This student has very high expectations for himself, and that is not a bad thing at all. I would not, however, walking into a pottery class and expect to complete my first masterpiece after the second class. There would be a significant amount of work and many proverbial broken eggs before the first omelet would be completed. Even then there would be plenty of room for improvement. If I thought for one moment that I, in either my martial arts career or my Christian life, thought I had learned all there was to learn, I would actually being to die in the sense that I would stop growing and learning.

This kind of event in any facet of life is training. Mistakes will be made. Some of those mistakes will be painful. Friends and mentors are usually there to help. In the case of Christians, we also have the promise that the Holy Spirit Himself will "come along side" to help us walk the path of life (John 14:16-17). There are times when we will succumb to temptation and stumble. These are disappointing, and they should be. But they should not be our total defeat. It is not about winning and losing. You can call it a loss and you would not be wrong. But it is one match in a lifetime of matches. There will be other temptations.

I have heard this kind of event in life, a defeat spiritual or secular, called a crisis of character. Sin is almost always deliberate. I honestly can not think of an occasion where it is not. What do we do after we stumble? More saints are grown out of the valleys than come off of the mountain tops. If you can humbly admit your failure, apologize to anyone that has been hurt in the process and learn from what happened, the defeat is transformed into growth.

When the rooster crowed after Peter denied knowing Jesus, Peter went out and wept bitterly. My heart tells me that Peter was sure that things between he and Jesus would never be the same. Jesus said that if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father (Matt 10:27-33). Peter denied Jesus, but his reaction of bitter sorrow and repentence speaks volumes that Peter's heart was broken at his actions. His denial was not repeated. Peter was humbled. Jesus restored Peter in their relationship and gave him a place of leadership in the new church. Peter could have walked away and turned his back in defeat. Instead, with the help of his friend Jesus, he got up and started walking forward again, scraped knees, bruised forehead and all. The humility and the experience were used by the Lord as part of the process to mould Peter's character into the image of Peter's beloved Savior.

That same Savior stands ready to do the same character building for you and me. This life is about training and learning and growing. The victory was already won for us at the cross and the empty tomb.

John 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him," Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. "Jesus said to him," Tend My sheep. (NASB)

Grace & Peace,

[email mike] jmhoskins@gmail.com