Last night we enjoyed watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game between Kentucky and Connecticut.
UK and UConn? Who picked them? Seriously? Of the 11 million people who submitted a bracket on ESPN.com only 0.016% guessed the final two correctly!
UK was an #8 seed. UConn a #7 seed. UK had lost 10 games. And UConn 8 games. Early in March UK suffered a bad loss to South Carolina and then a 19 point beating by Florida. UConn was blown out by 33 points at Louisville on March 8.
The tournament reminds me that the qualities for success in the sports are so similar to those we need to acquire as Christians. The apostle Paul must have been a sports fan! Because he frequently used sports metaphors to make spiritual points.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil. 3:12-14, NLT)
After watching this tournament with all of it’s upsets, improbable wins, and final champion, here’s 7 qualities characteristic of all winners.
(1) Winners Don’t Dwell on Past Failures.
If UK and UConn and worried about failed opportunities, poor play during the regular season or games they lost, the never would have made it to the final four. Everyone loses. Sometimes. But true winners move on.
Paul did. He persecuted the church. Killed Christians. Was the “chief of sinners” But he forgot the past and moved on. So, must we. All sin. Fall short. And make mistakes. Spiritual winners don’t wallow in the past. But seek to correct their wrongs and do better.
(2) Winners Believe they Can Improve.
Both UK and UConn were not satisfied with their regular season. Both believed they could get better. And they proved it!
Paul was a great example of seeking spiritual improvement. He said, “I’m still working. Growing. Learning. I haven’t attained the goal yet!” What a great lesson for us! Don’t be satisfied with where you are today. Believe there is a better tomorrow. Believe you can get getter! And grow spiritually.
(3) Winners Possess Passion
Last night we saw two teams play with genuine passion. With a burning desire. With a will to win. With a heart to be the best.
Paul had an intense desire to be with Christ. He said, “I press.” Vernon J. McGee wrote, “The highest desire that can possess any heart is the longing to see God.” Spiritual winners possess that burning desire.
(4) Winners are Committed.
The writings of Paul speak of commitment. And his life demonstrated it. A commitment to Christ. To discipleship. To ministry. To evangelistic outreach.
If we are to be spiritual winners, our confession must be more than mere words. It must be a commitment to our Lord. To His Word. His cross. His cause. His calling for our lives. (Lk 14:25-33)
(5) Winners Exercise Discipline.
Sports success requires great discipline. A disciple to train. To practice. And to execute in the game. The discipline is not just physical. But mental and emotional.
Spiritual winners must likewise discipline their bodies. Minds. Emotions. The Bible says “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7) “Learn to endure hardship (Heb. 12:7). “Discipline (your) body” (1 Cor 9:27).
(6) Winners Stay Focused.
Often you hear a Coach say his team “lost focus.” Winners ignore distractions. Play through pain. Overcome adversary. Winners focus on the game.
Paul was focused on the goal. On running the Christian race. On crossing the finish line. We too must keep our eyes on Jesus. (Heb. 12:1)
(7) Winners Receive the Reward
In sports there’s a reward for winning. A trophy. A plaque. A ring. The thrill and satisfaction of achievement. However, those rewards are temporal. And temporary.
The reward for Christian faithfulness is spiritual. Eternal. Heavenward.
The tournament was exciting. The games were good. But its fun is fleeting. It’s just a part of our earthly existence.
Our spiritual lives are greater than games. Sports. Or material success. There is something better. Bigger. And eternally lasting.
Let’s press on to the heavenly goal for the prize in Christ Jesus!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman