Choose the Losing Side to Win the Game
By Jane Tawel
January 27, 2018
I am not a team person. I used to be – cheerleader, Celtics fan, Baptist, etc. My children and husband will tell you, that today, even when it seems I should pick a side, the obvious side of Team Tawel; It often seems to them that I start kicking the ball toward the other Team’s goal. If anyone playing for Team Tawel is playing the Discussion / Argument / Making Choices Game with other family teams or friend teams, life styles, or life choices; I will often go rogue and start playing offense and defense for the other side. It is my own belief, i.e. world view, that even though there seem to be many teams, there are really only two Coaches. There is God, the Life Coach and Satan / Evil, the Death Coach. So, with fear and trepidation and daily red cards on my humility, I try to determine which Coach is training and leading the team, and try my best to be playing on that side. It may seem I switch sides, but in fact, to my mind, there is only one Real Team – The Jesus-Team.
I have found that sometimes, Teams will claim a God- Team name, like Christianity, or Islam, but the self-proclaimed players don’t seem to know the rules or The Way God wants the Life-Game played. Dallas Willard uses the metaphor of an airplane pilot not realizing that she is flying upside down to describe this idea of mine — players thinking they are playing for the Christ-team, when in fact they are shooting into Satan’s hoops, scoring points for his deathly kingdom team.
I have also found that some people wouldn’t dream of putting God’s Team name on their playing abilities and yet seem to live and play the Life Game more closely to how Jesus played the Life-Game than many who claim to be “little-Christs”. I have struggled mightily to find a balance in this current game between the rules of Truth and the rules of Love. Neither of Life’s Coaches is able to reveal the whole game plan and win, but there are enough clues in the Rule Book, in the “videos” of past player’s winning games, in the clues on the playing field, we call Earth, and in what the Bible calls the “fruits” of one’s life, or the moves of one’s game, — to help me figure out if I went out today on Life’s Playing Field, and scored points for God’s Team or Satan’s Team. We need to stop listening to those who claim to be playing for Coach God but don’t want to repent of scoring points for Satan’s team. If we read the Book of Rules, it is really very clear how God and others should and will judge our Life Game.
At the end of each day I live, comes the reckoning. I talk to God Coach, Who, even though I am the most benched player of all time, always has time to listen and coach me individually. I ask God Coach, “Please forgive me for all the points I scored today for Satan’s team. I know I ended up running in the wrong direction because I just wanted so badly to win, I didn’t care that the points were scored for the Other Team. I thank you, that even though it cost me an MVP on Your Team, God, I will never cost You, The Game. You have already won it.” I thank God Coach, “Thank You for all the points You scored today with my feet, my hands, my mind, my heart. Thank you that despite all my errors, misses, and boo-boos, You remain For me, on my side, against the powers of the Other Team. Protect me from wanting to be traded to Satan’s team so I can make more money, or get more attention, or play more. Help me be willing to sit on Your Bench, God, for the glory of the Resurrection of Playing for Your Team Forever.” And I beg God Coach, “Please let me have another chance tomorrow, to play a better Life Game in your honor and glory so I can play with You forever. Let the greatest Player of All Time, Your Son, who had Your Voice constantly in His ear, inform my Game. Let me see Jesus daily and follow His moves, on the playing field of My Life.” Amen.
We live in the strangest sort of reality now, where we have come to set ourselves up as fifteen minute Celebrities, and little mini-demagogues. It is perhaps because we have so very much power as individuals that post Humanism-Enlightenment, there is only self to worship or the self of the celebrity of our current team. We often don’t even realize we are doing it, because either we simply find people who agree with our opinions and shore up the sinking sands of self-centered built belief systems; Or we make God a personal pocket genie – a god who more than any thing wants our team to win. Win at any cost. Win as a good in itself. It is all a game for us, a competitive television show to watch, a test to score well on — and we seek that constant high of winning and watching the other “team” lose. So we must keep winning to feel happy, right, powerful, fulfilled, secure. And in this way, we have truly lost sight of what it means to be fully human and we have lost sight of what it means for god to be fully God. We tend currently to associate this team mentality with politics and sports, but it is rampant in our society and in others around the world. I remember when Verity, my daughter, was on Team Jacob rather than Team Edward – all based on a puerile book and movie series. I sometimes think that if the world continues for a while longer, this will go down in history as the Age of Team Worship. Anyone who claims the name of Jehovah, needs to be very careful of this worldview as in Christ, there is no team, “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, Celtic nor Laker”. There is only His Body, crucified and resurrected.
The reality is, that unless we are playing for the losing team, we will lose all. Coach Jesus, says what does it profit you if you win every competition, but in the process lose your soul to Satan’s Team? In The Real Kingdom of God, we must lose to win, and crucify self to be personally resurrected. We must follow the Coach who took one for the team, and we must bench ourselves to be chosen MVP. God’s chosen people are always the ones the rest of the world considers The Losers.
Matthew’s Gospel translated by Jane Tawel: When the MVP of All Eternity comes in his glory, as The Final Coach of All Teams, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Jesus the Coach, will be gathered all the nations’ teams, and he will separate people one from another as a Good Coach separates the valuable players from the players for The Other Side. And he will place His Team on his right, the home team, but Satan’s Team on the left, the away with you team. Then the Kingly Coach will say to those on his right The Home Team, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom’s Playing Field prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For you played on My Team. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we play for Your Team? ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, you played for Team Jesus, whenever you played the game for one of the least of these my brothers, you played the Life Game for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, the Get Away Team, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his team players. For you put My Team Name on your jersey while your actions on the field showed you for a player for the Other Side. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we play for Satan’s Team; when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘You scored many points for Satan’s Team, thinking that by putting my Father’s name on it, you would win the Game. Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into the eternal life of Team God.” Matthew 25
Choose the right Team. It doesn’t just cost you the game; it costs you your life.
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Once again, I defer to writing by “People who say things better than I ever could”: As promised, I will try to hold the newspaper in one hand, and the Word of God in the other. I submit to you two editorials and some news from a current newspaper, the words of the prophets in the New Testament, and A.W. Tozer.
Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world’s deathly Game Plan, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Coach God is, that Life Game which is good and acceptable and perfect.
I was taught as a little girl that being a Christian meant having Jesus in my heart. I was taught that my daily choices added up to my eternal choice. I would submit to you, that no matter how the world seems to change to our eyes, it has not changed since Adam and Eve in God’s. So in some writers’ words about America, that might have been written by Romans at the time Jesus lived:
First: Some editorials from writers commenting on the strangest thing of all, to my old eyes – People who claim to be pastors and evangelists in the name of my Savior, Jesus the Christ, telling powerful people they can do whatever they want and still “go to heaven” as long as they are playing for the right team. This is most tragic of all for those very powerful people who are led to believe they are “winning”, when in fact they are playing for Satan’s Team. It is most sad for those very rich and powerful rulers of the New Rome, America, that “Pharisees” continue to live in sin, so that their religious and political agenda will be furthered – just like the mistaken Pharisees did at the time of Jesus played Our Life Game. It is horrible though for those of us to whom “much has been given, since much will be required” when The Coach calls us to that Final Locker Room post-game talk in His Heaven.
“The triumph of partisanship over morality starts at the top.
Politicians have always behaved badly. What’s new is the willingness of so many not just to look the other way but to call bad behavior good.” – “Republicans Redefine Morality as Whatever Trump Does” Dana Milbank, WP
The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.
The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.
Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”
The danger endures.
–“The Trump Evangelicals Have lost their gag reflex” – by Michael Gerson
And then there is the news about the young lady who “forgives” the abusive doctor of so many “team players” in the USA Gymnastics Olympic team. Forgiveness is a very important Christ -like thing to do for this young lady and it will be a treasure to her own soul. However, we do wrong as Christians to forgive sinners, perhaps especially sinners with a lot of worldly power because by doing so, we are becoming god. Only God can forgive, as Jesus is clear to point out to the Pharisees of His own time. And God only forgives, if I repent and sin no more, as Jesus also points out to the woman caught in adultery. But time and place truly don’t change reality, since the Pharisees and Sadduccees, the men caught in adultery, didn’t stick around for God’s words either. They go off and forgive each other to sin another day in perhaps another way. Jesus went on to show all that have ears to ear and eyes to see, that forgiveness is not free, has never been free, will never be free. Sin comes with a price – death. We will all pay it. Forgiveness comes with a price and Jesus paid it on the cross even though He and He alone didn’t need it. But we have done much wrong to the Good News by thinking that Jesus paid that price to leave sinners in their sins. We must die as He did, not just wear the t-shirts of cheap grace that claims Jesus paid it all. “IF any woman or man wants to follow me”, says Jesus, “she and he must take up the cross.” “You must be completely changed,” says God, “You must be born all over again into spiritual life with Me.”
Once, again I must give you the brilliant words of A.W. Tozer on the reality that we should, as Christ followers bring daily “to earth as it is in Everywhere that Isn’t Earth = Heavens.
From The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer:
Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of God’s sovereignty.
On board the liner are several scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.
We know that God will fulfill every promise made to the prophets; we know that sinners will some day be cleansed out of the earth; we know that a ransomed company will enter into the joy of God and that the righteous will shine forth in the kingdom of their Father… and a new heaven and a new earth be established forever.
In the meanwhile things are not as smooth as this quick outline might suggest. The mystery of iniquity doth already work. Within the broad filed of God’s sovereign, permissive will the deadly conflict of good with evil continues with increasing fury. God will yet have His way in the whirlwind and the storm, but the storm and the whirlwind are here, and as responsible beings we must make our choice in the present moral situation.
Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of these is the law of choice and consequences God has decreed that all who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in the obedience of faith shall receive eternal life and become sons of God. He has also decreed that all who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last.
Reducing the whole matter to individual terms, we arrive at some vital and highly personal conclusions. In the moral conflict now raging around us whoever is on God’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win. Here there is no chance, no gamble. There is freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it is made. By the mercy of God we may repent a wrong choice and alter the consequences by making a new and right choice. Beyond that we cannot go.” (111,112 Tozer)
In closing, you can’t be a team player on the bench. Prayer is your team huddle with the Coach but it is not playing the game. We must put actions to God’s words in order to be in the Game. Understanding the game, does not mean that I can rely on the Coach to play it for me. No matter how many injuries I incur today out there, I have to pray for help from the Coach and then get out there and try to lose. My Coach assures me: If you go out there in the fray of the Game and try to win for your own sake, Janie Karen, you will lose your life. But if you go out there and lose all for My sake, you will win.”
Rooting for the Losing Team of Jesus,