There was something very satisfactory about watching the Lions blow away the Barbarians in Hong Kong in 2013. It was an encouraging start to the forthcoming tour of Australia and provoked a few headaches both for the Lions selectors as well as Aussie defence coaches, who ultimately failed to cope with the threats the boys from home brought down under.
The victory settled the nerves and ensured that we got off on the right foot. Serving up relief, optimism, and belief – but perhaps above all just a great feeling that we’ve won.
And men do love to win. And we love to want to win. We get inspired by great speeches – from the pages of history to the writers of Hollywood. Think of “We shall never surrender” or “Inch by inch.” These great pieces of oratorical genius get the blood flowing and focus our attention.
I wonder, however, if too often we concede too much to ultimately insignificant battles. Victory in the rugby is a great Saturday lunchtime – but what if that’s it? What if I spend my design on a fleeting sporting event thousands of miles away played by people I don’t actually know?
And we are designed for passion. We are wired for emotional engagement to connect with things that matter and shape our energies towards achieving victories.
But as with so many areas of our lives we can all too easily form the wrong attachments and let our emotions leads us astray away from what is right. The answer to this is not to shut down our emotions and emphasise stoicism (just look where that grand national experiment got us) but reattach our emotions and our passions to the good and the true.
This starts by celebrating Jesus. When we marvel at his victory over sin and death – our enemies – we begin to reorient what we get passionate about. When we really believe that He has changed things forever, that He has won, we live with optimistic enthusiasm and this ‘hope’ begins to wash over every area of our life.
We are made to win. We are made to get excited about victory. So don’t limit your passion to things that will ultimately fade away.
When I engage with my non-Christian friends, or debate with atheists, I am in a high-stakes battle. Of course it’s a battle. When people’s eternal destiny is on the line it’s not a verbal game of Laser Quest.
Jesus was a fighter. He fought a battle and won. His motivating example inspires me to be a good ambassador for Him.
However, my motivation is not to win for victories sake – or it shouldn’t be – but to introduce people to the winner, to Jesus. We may be wired to celebrate victory but in our enthusiasm and through our emotions let’s not forget whom this victory belongs too.
“This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
I will celebrate my Lord’s victory. I will let my whole self passionately rejoice that Jesus has won and that he shares His victory with all. And I will marvel that in all of His wisdom he chose me, and he chose you, to tell others about Himself.
Of course, any celebration of victory brings a strong danger of arrogance. There is no place for this in the work of the evangelist. When I stand next to Jesus I am utterly defeated. I am undone. No warrior in this world could ever hold his gaze. I am violently aware of how utterly inadequate I am.
God is not creating perfect people with perfect answers and all-convincing personalities to advance the knowledge of his victory. No, He’s using you and me. The power is not in our persuasion but victory that Christ achieved and we celebrate, as Paul reminds us, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)