God is looking for losers

by Kari on March 22, 2013

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I stood at the sink and shook my head, trying to pin down the vague heavy feeling of discouragement that had plagued me for a few days.

“I’m just not winning anywhere,” I finally admitted. Then smiled, “I know you know the feeling.”

Jeff smiled and nodded, pulling me close into his arms, not taking offense because we both know it’s true. These early days of church-planting can sometimes feel disheartening. “Planting” is by definition a season of pushing seeds deep down underground (that is, where they are unseen) and then watching and watering and waiting. (Heavy on the waiting party.)

Planting season is heavy on labor, light on harvest. If you’re prone to evaluate things based on immediate visible results, planting is not the business for you. (Or parenting, for that matter.)

But planting is the business for us, for now, and we thoroughly enjoy it and the blessed saints surrounding us and the adventure each day brings. But we live in a celebrity culture which idolizes winners, champions, stories of success. Fair enough. Our Lord was a victor, a winner, a champion. He successfully conquered sin, death, and the grave.

Some days I can’t even seem to successfully conquer the laundry. 

And no one celebrates when I sweep up crumbs for the zillionth time and put another meal on the table.

My own mundane life is juxtaposed with the laughing, flawless “winners” who grace every screen, page, billboard and stage.

This week I read an interesting article, a critique of the “radical” movement which calls Christians to abandon American comforts and live lives of sacrifice. While I wholeheartedly embrace this movement, the author made an interesting observation, pointing out that the “radical” literature still elevates a “winning” American mentality, celebrating big-name and big-splash acts, saying:

By contrast, there aren’t many narratives of men who rise at 4 A.M. six days a week to toil away in a factory to support their families. Or of single mothers who work 10 hours a day to care for their children. Judging by the tenor of their stories, being “radical” is mainly for those who already have the upper-middle-class status to sacrifice.

Nor are there many stories of “failure”—of people sacrificing without visible signs of transformation. As a result, many of the narratives implicitly convey that the reason to go and die is the gospel success that will follow. In most stories, the results come during the lifetime of those who decided to “come and die.” [Rather], God’s “greater” often seems like disappointment and failure, and that in our “most dire moments [God] seems almost absent.” Given how prevalent such moments seem in the Christian life—and in Scripture—they are disproportionately underrepresented in the “radical” literature.

Just this week, on a low morning, I opened God’s precious Word and found myself sitting with David in 1 Samuel. In one of my favorite passages, I re-read of David fleeing from Saul, hiding in the cave of Adullam, and receiving those who gathered around him. Who rallied around to support him?

“Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented, gathered to him. And there were with him 400 men” (1 Sam. 22:2).

Four hundred losers! 

Sweet dream-team, David.

They were not glowing examples of victorious living. They were not the “winners” I would have chosen for my team. But this was David’s army, and David led these men to victory.

Again and again and again.

We all “know” this truth, but it bears repeating.

God is not looking for winners. He’s looking for losers.

He’s looking for those who will lose. Lose their money. Lose their comforts. Lose their reputations. Lose their pride. Lose their lives.

Even Jesus’ win came through a loss.

His life came through death.

And the truth is that most the “winners” in Scripture weren’t considered winners during their lifetime. They never “achieved” or arrived. In the great Hall of Faith we read,

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

And these “losers,” Scripture says, are those “of whom the world is not worthy.”

The world and all its titles–Winner, Champion, Celebrity–isn’t worthy of those blessed “losers” in scripture who “did not receive what was promised” …

but persevered anyway.

God is looking for these kind of losers. To be His hands and feet, who will care not for glory or reputation, for praise or celebration, but who will simply, quietly, faithfully love His people, feed His sheep, and give cups of water to His little ones. 

If you look around and you’re “just not winning anywhere,” keep on losing, keep on loving, keep on trusting, keep on giving. 

Keep on believing.

God is looking for losers just like me and you. 

{Thanks for reading.}

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