I have always been competitive, to a fault. As a teenager, I eagerly joined group games with so much enthusiasm causing injury to myself and others on more than once occasion. Why I felt a visceral need to win an aggressive game of musical chair I’ll never know. Winning can be intoxicating, no matter the context.
It is possible, however, to win at the wrong things. In Philippians 3:2-12, Paul warns his readers to watch out for those who would pressure them to win at the wrong things. Certain groups of Jews were teaching that in order to be a follower of Jesus, a person must participate in those external indicators of faithfulness, like circumcision, food laws, etc. as if “winning” at those things were grounds for boasting.
Paul pulls the rug out from under those agitators by flashing his credentials. Hebrew of Hebrews, a zealous follower of the law. He was a winner by their measure.
But now, Paul recognizes he was winning at the wrong things. All that matters is knowing Christ. Paul would gladly give up all things to follow the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is not a path marked by “winning.” Rather, it is a path of self-sacrifice and even suffering for the sake of the world. Paul’s deepest desire is live into this cross-shaped life and come to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection. He has abandoned all illusions of “winning” is instead seeking to obey one day at a time, pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him.
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Grace and Peace.