Winning It All

1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

The World Cup. For soccer fans across the world it is the pinnacle of sporting events. 32 countries from around the globe gather together to determine the next world champion. Starting today all the long months and years of training, discipline, and hard work will come down to this single one month event. Over the next four weeks countries will be eliminated as the field of teams is reduced from 32 down to 2. Then on July 11 there will be one final game. One final contest. One winner. One champion. One team will remain standing. One country will get to hoist the trophy.

Over the decades certain countries have established a tradition for winning. Brazil. Italy. Germany. Argentina. England (I am declaring it in great expectation! 2010 will be the year of the Three Lions!). In fact, over the long history of World Cup play only 7 countries have ever won. For many countries just having the chance to compete is a tremendous achievement and honor. But in spite of the odds you can be certain that when the tournament begins each and every team is going to play to the best of their ability. Whether they are the returning champion or the lowest ranked team in the field they will all share one common purpose. They will be playing to win it all. Not one single country will take the pitch having decided that they are going to play to lose. They fully realize that the road will be long and very difficult but in their hearts they are convinced that they can know both success and victory.

In the next few weeks we are going to take a look at healthy, Biblical relationships. A few of the notes will probably deal with very specific relationships. Husband and wife. Parent and child. Maybe even something on friends. But the majority of the notes are going to be more general in nature. They will deal with Biblical principles that can be replied regardless of the actual relationship itself. Love. Forgiveness. Patience. Endurance. Loyalty. Service. Personal responsibility. Not as much a primer on specific action as a look at attitude and character. After 20 years of ministry I am of the mindset that it is impossible to change the “fruit” until one first deals with the “root.” You can try to simply change your behavior (or worse yet, the behavior of the other person involved) but in the end your efforts will only result in greater frustration. The critical area that needs change is the heart of man. And with regard to relationships it has to begin with me. Unless I am made right there I will never be right anywhere else.

Today I want to offer you a brief word of encouragement and challenge as we exit the locker room and head out onto the pitch. When it comes to healthy, meaningful relationships we need to apply Paul’s words to our own experience. We need to play to win. Each of the teams in the World Cup has one goal for which they are aiming. They may pass the ball, head the ball, and even redirect the ball but at some point they begin to move towards the goal. All in an effort to score. All for the purpose of winning the game. We desperately need to do the same. Our prize is vibrant, satisfying, God-honoring relationships. Stop settling for anything other than complete victory. Sure, maybe your record up until this point has been horrible. Maybe you have lost far more than you have won. But past defeat does not mean you will always lose. Yesterday’s failures do not have to limit tomorrow’s outcome. At some point you have to be willing to get back on the field, to get back in the game of life, to start pursuing healthy relationships again. One of the mantras common to soccer is the following, “One game can change everything.” It’s true in the World Cup. And it’s true with regard to relationships. Whether it’s a struggling marriage, prodigal children, or an unbelieving boss change is possible. God delights in making all things new. He always leads us in triumph. You might have known nothing except defeat up until this point but in Jesus you can win it all!

Now, I’m just hoping He can do the same for England…