What an exciting game! As a faithful Atlanta Falcons fan, of course it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. However, for my family, it was a great time we shared watching these two determined teams play a great game. Along with the aroma of chicken wings, chips, dip and many other snacks, our living room was filled with shouts of excitement and sounds of frustration. Understandably we wanted our team to win. Everyone wants to see his or her home team standing in the spotlight, holding the prized trophy high in the air. That’s part of being a fan of any sports team. There is one thing that’s inevitable and can’t be avoided. Where there is a winning team, there has to be a team that loses. Together with the players and the thousands of fans watching, there will be two distinct groups found at the conclusion of the game. One group will be found celebrating, overjoyed by a victory and another group left feeling the sorrowful pains of defeat.
Finding myself associating with the group feeling the pain of loss, I took a deep breath and accepted the defeat. As the frustration of the loss sank in, I took a cool drink of water to soothe my scratchy throat due to all the cheering and groaning I had done during the game. I then proceeded to turn the TV off and make my way to bed hours after my normal bedtime. As I lay there with my head on my pillow, the adrenaline finally began to dissipate. Before I drifted off to sleep I pondered on the emotions I had experienced from the outcome of the game. There were extreme highs and even more extreme lows during the previous four or so hours. I thought, "Well tomorrow is another day, and this was just a game that honestly didn’t affect my life," but I couldn’t help but think of all the emotions that were being experienced across our nation due to this one football game. I wondered if there was any lesson that could be gleaned from this outcome or in fact any other sporting event we find ourselves enjoying?
Just like those football players working together on that field to accomplish their dream of winning a championship, we too have dreams and aspirations that we greatly desire to come to pass in our lives. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man” (Proverbs 19:21 Proverbs 19:21There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
American King James Version×). During our quest to fulfill our dreams we will face many battles, some small and some quite large. With each obstacle we face and endure, whether it’s a win or loss, we must continue to push harder toward those dreams. Doesn’t this sound a bit like our favorite team as they make their way through a season with hopes of making it to the big game? They have to face other teams who have the same aspiration of winning every game and bringing home a championship, but not every team will have that dream come true. Does this mean absolute failure for those who do not win every game or do not bring home the championship trophy? “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:1-4 James 1:1-4  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;  Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
American King James Version×).
It should be quite obvious, the answer is no. We all will and probably have already experienced a few shortcomings in our lives and face times when the realization of our dreams did not come to fruition as we had greatly desired. These are just momentary setbacks, and we should not consider these events as failures. It’s not a failure unless we refuse to continue. If our desires are true and within God’s will, He also desires to complete what we set our hand to. We know He promises to perfect us as Christians in His perfect time: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×, English Standard Version).
There is a saying that I have heard many coaches use in some form to inspire their players to never give up and never quit. I can’t remember it completely, but it goes something like, “It’s not if you fall, but how you get up and continue.” What if the Patriots had given up after being 25 points down? If their hearts were not fully committed to finish, it would have felt like failure was inevitable. But they finished the game and won! We too must be fully committed, determined to get up when we fall and finish the game! “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
We only have ourselves to blame if we don’t get up and keep going. Why waste time pointing the finger and searching for a something to place the blame?
We also have to be aware of how anger can and will affect our attitude. We can’t let anger and bitterness sneak in and sidetrack us from keeping the vision. Anger and bitterness will blind us and that is a sure road to failure. Yes, losing hurts and its sting can linger, but rest assured wounds will heal. The scars we earn during these battles can teach us many very valuable life lessons that help us stay focused. No one is responsible for our loss of vision except ourselves, so keeping our eyes on the prize is crucial. Victory is not unobtainable; we must see the need to be patient and have perseverance. “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (1 Chronicles 15:7 1 Chronicles 15:7Of the sons of Gershom; Joel the chief and his brothers an hundred and thirty:
American King James Version×, ESV). We only have ourselves to blame if we don’t get up and keep going. Why waste time pointing the finger and searching for a something to place the blame? The pain of loss is enough punishment for anyone, so take the hit, stand up and get busy recovering so that one can keep running the race.
It’s easy to be joyful when everything goes perfectly and we win. There is so much praise lifted to God in those moments, but what about the other side of the coin? We should do the same in the bad times. Win or lose, God is still there and He deserves our praise. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14 Ecclesiastes 7:14In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also has set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
American King James Version×, ESV). “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1 Psalms 34:1I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
American King James Version×, ESV). During these trying times is where a Christian is proven. This is the real battle that will determine the true champions.
I am reminded of an inspiring scene from a movie many of you may have seen. It was a football themed movie titled Facing the Giants. I love the scene where the coaches and players gathered together in the locker room and proclaimed, “We will praise Him when we win and we will praise Him when we lose.” This public declaration and vow was spoken just before the team took the field and experienced a season-ending loss. It’s easy to make these vows when we are on a high and seem bound for glory, but what about when the plan fails to produce the outcome we anticipated? These young men suddenly found themselves feeling the sting of loss and it took a moment to remember that vow. God isn’t too concerned about the wins or losses, but the character we develop during these moments in our lives. How could we fully understand the feeling of being filled, if we never experienced the feeling of being completely empty? A trophy will set on a shelf and just collect dusk, but the character you develop will stay with you for eternity.
Let’s join in the celebration as the Super Bowl champion Patriots raise the Lombardi Trophy. It is well deserving and an honorable thing for all to congratulate these players on this tremendous accomplishment. Whether we are on the winning side or those of the losing side, let’s be thankful for the experience and praise God that it’s just a game. Let’s never forget to always be joyful for the winners and share in their joy, Super Bowl or anytime. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 Romans 12:15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
American King James Version×). You never know, next year may be our time to raise the trophy in victory. No matter the outcome, we should be thankful for the wonderful opportunities we have in this life. “Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 2 Corinthians 9:10-11  Now he that ministers seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)  Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causes through us thanksgiving to God.
American King James Version×).
These are moments that we as God’s people should continually rejoice in. Life isn’t a competition, but an experience. Take the time and be mindful that we are living during a time of peace and prosperity that allows us all to enjoy such wonderful forms of entertainment. Win or lose, remember to take the time to be thankful and lift up your voices in celebration. Let’s keep this in mind as we experience these moments with our family and friends in a nation where we are blessed by God to enjoy such things as football. After all, this great blessing makes us all winners!