Who Wins, Really?

“He who dies with the most toys wins.” Someone had embraced the idea to the point of proclaiming it from his rear bumper, his nearsighted worldview trailing along behind him—unsafe at any speed—baiting the gullible wherever he went: “Game on! It’s me against you, Sucker!”

Why do we benchmark our lives to the traits and accomplishments of others, anyway? Instead of savoring our successes or dealing with our difficulties at face value, we evaluate the acceptability of our existence against that of other people. If possessions, achievements or fame tilt in our favor, we go about our merry way in our “life is good” gear, but if we fall short of someone else’s good fortune or their outward signs of success, our narrative nosedives by comparison into, “I lived life and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” And if those around us are winning by cheating, well that’s just plain intolerable.

There is a more peaceful way to live life, and it has everything to do with where we look for validation. “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong,” writes David the psalmist, for our quality of our life is not determined by that of anyone else, least of all “those who carry out their wicked schemes,” whatever form their treachery may take. Instead, David redirects us to God, in whom exists life itself: “Trust in the Lord … Delight yourself in the Lord … Commit your way to the Lord … Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” For God is never against us, but always for us.

If this life were all there was—if death were the finish line of all things—then the materialist motorist, his toys in tow, might be right. But Jesus lives forever, and for all who live in Him by faith, this life is only the beginning. And he who never dies always wins.

Father, my life is safely secure in you through Christ, and you’re all I need. Send your Spirit to remind me to set my sights always and only on you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

Read today’s Scripture in Psalm 37:1-7.

Our Regatta Regalia

When I was frequenting a bakery cafe on Ohio State’s campus, there would often sit just a few feet from me the university’s women’s crew coaching staff and key leaders from the school’s national powerhouse rowing team. They met there regularly, seemingly to keep communications wide open in both directions and to minimize potential disruptions to team unity, focus and success. It was good leadership.

One morning, my attention tacked to “headwinds” at the table on my left. A younger member of this select group was wearing a t-shirt of another university, and seeing this, the coach kindly, but firmly took issue with the matter, emphasizing the student’s identity as a team member and educating her on the impact of the individual on the solidarity of the whole. I can’t say whether the rower learned anything that day, but I came away with a deeper appreciation of responsibility and resolve.

To be fair, it is easy to lose perspective in life, and course-corrections are often necessary. For instance, though the believers in Ephesus now belonged to the ultimate championship crew, the body of Christ, some still sported their old t-shirts of darkness—greed, impurity, and obscenity, in their case—inconsistent for the individual and confusing to the team. So, Paul reminded them of their new identity in Him whose jersey they now wore: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light …”1

What do we wear in their place when we remove the uniforms of our past? Again, we look to Paul. Steering the Thessalonians also from the depths of darkness into the lanes of light, he emphasized self-control, embracing who they were in Christ and aligning their actions with their identity in Him. How? By “putting on faith and love … and the hope of salvation.”2 For when we really grasp what Jesus has done for us, when we openly accept for ourselves the deep love He has for us, we are overwhelmed to the point we eagerly discard the old and put on the new. Faith, hope and love—these are the team regalia that bind us together as we represent Christ in a watching world.

Father, thank you for saving me and giving me new and eternal life in Christ. Grace me to truly understand who He’s made me to be, and inspire me to live and to give in faith, hope and love. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ in me is freedom.

1 Ephesians 5:8
2 1 Thessalonians 5:8

See today’s Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11.

Where You Look

The man was recalling the time he tried his hand at motorcycle racing. Before he took to the track for the first time, a friend shared with him this crucial piece of advice: “If you begin to lose control, do not look at the wall; look to the infield, because where you look is where you’ll go.” (“Thanks, I think.”) The same is said more generally with regard to influence of any sort—“We become what we behold.”

Life comes at us, fast and furious, and it changes in an instant. When our wheels of self-control go wobbly, we can easily find ourselves looking at the “walls” of this world, be they greed and gossip, lust and lies, or rules and religiosity. This is how Peter went from defending his Lord when among friends in the Garden to denying the Christ when on his own in the courtyard. It’s how he went from savoring dietary liberty amid the Gentiles to choking on dietary legalism among the Jews.

Where, then, do we look when temptations come our way? How do we avoid “crash and burn”? To the church, Paul reveals the reality of our race, “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” and there is no safer place in heaven or on earth than in Him. The apostle then coaches us with his own crucial piece of advice: look to Jesus. “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” he writes, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” For Christ Jesus is our infield, and we look to Him always, because where we look is where we’ll go.

Father, thank you for saving me and giving me new and forever life in Christ. Transform me and strengthen me, so that I look to you — first, only and always. Be glorified in this life. I ask this in Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

Read Colossians 3:1-4—Paul’s amazing declaration of our life in Christ.