Back in the early 90's my husband and I were newlyweds living in the Atlanta area. The sports fans among us will know this was the heyday of the Atlanta Braves baseball franchise, 1991 marking the Braves' berth (and loss) in the World Series. It was crazy. Everyone, everywhere, was talking about the Braves. The excitement was palpable, the city seemingly gripped by baseball fever.
A rather large church in our area made mention of the Braves on its sign. I don't remember the exact wording but I do remember it had something to do with the Lord being on the side of the Braves, the familiar "God = winning" boast. I was a young twenty-something with the world at her feet and still something didn't ring true in this avowal of God being a Braves fan and thus the contributing factor behind their pennant run.
I wondered then what the sign might say should the Braves lose? What about those seasons before...and since...that were, shall we say, not quite of World Series caliber? Where is God then? Is He only the God of the winning? A brief perusal not only of church signs during winning seasons but of acceptance speeches and post-victory interviews could lead one to conclude that yes, indeed, "God = winning."
I suppose one could consult the Bible and present various scenarios whereby God secured victory, say for the Israelites in the Old Testament by way of example. We like battle imagery, particularly so in our passion for sports. However, were we to survey the whole of the Bible I daresay we would find at least as many, if not more, instances of God's people on the losing end and this despite the Lord's evident presence and favor. Take Isaiah. Or Jeremiah. Or, for that matter, the gruesome and horrific death of Jesus, God's one and only beloved Son.
I thought these same thoughts last year during the whole tightrope across the Grand Canyon stunt. I actually didn't know a thing about it, not until it was happening and my Twitter feed blew up with various exclamations of surprise and horror. Intrigued, I turned on the TV and caught the end of the stunt, the kiss on the ground, and the swell of Twitter commentary regarding Nick's invocation of Jesus to help him.
I am glad Nick is a believer, don't get me wrong. I was glad that he unashamedly testified of Christ on national television. I was troubled, though, by echoes of the "God = winning" boast, particularly so given that this stunt was so far fetched and crazy and radical. Look what faith in Jesus does, it seemed to say, it walks on a tight rope across the Grand Canyon in Jesus' Name!!!
I wondered, as I did back in 1991, what if, God forbid, it all went wrong? Where is God then? Would Jesus' name still be exalted? Would we then have talked about 30 mph winds and this piece of equipment or that bit of unexpected weather?
The reality of life as a believer is not so much winning as losing. Persecution, struggle, opposition--the Bible is clear that these are part and parcel to following Christ. The problem with thinking that "God = winning" is not only the fact that so few of us actually, you know, win but that even more of us aren't anywhere near the limelight. We may dream a dream of tightrope-type daring but instead we find ourselves folding laundry. Or we get up and go to work at a job that offers little in terms of excitement and thrills. Or we make the thousandth peanut butter and jelly sandwich of our lifetime. And sometimes, but only some times, we feel like we want to scream from the ordinariness and the mundanity and the boredom of it all.
Most of us aren't walking the tightrope of risk; we live lives of ordinary plodding, day in and day out.
My friend once described her current state as "plodding contentment" and I like that. I know that. I understand that. I am not living the life of which movies or books or church signs are made of and chances are neither are you. We aren't on national television risking our lives on some life threatening stunt or playing in the World Series. Is God better pleased with such famed drama? Or isn't He glorified in the contented heart of a humble servant who chooses to serve Him with gladness in mundane obscurity?
Our utter ordinariness reveals the glory of the Treasure. Our willingness to lose all for Christ shows His worth. We need not fret over our lack of glory and glamour, wins and losses, feats or failures. Serve Him well, where you are, win or lose, and know He delights to show the glory of His surpassing power as Treasure in a humble clay jar.