Are we winners when we never win?
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Someone said: “The important thing in life is not victory but combat; it is not to have vanquished but to have fought well.”
Is this biblical? Is this true?
How we determine heroes
Often when we compare our stories to the Bible, we see a great paradox. For example, we call people winners, or heroes, when they overcome significant obstacles and live happily ever after. In our eyes, these people have won in life.
On the other hand, the people who constantly seem to struggle and suffer are not winners but losers. We don’t like their stories, and sometimes we even sigh: “what now?” when new adversities happen to them. Or we seek to find blame in them. “There must be something wrong with them, that they can’t have functional lives like that. Harsh judgments. Often so wrong.
How God determines heroes
For God, heroes of stories are people who didn’t win in human eyes but people who lived faithfully through their failures, battles, and Suffering. God is not very interested in us having a success story. God is interested in how we handle ourselves amid pain and Suffering.
For God, stories of success have two ingredients:
What God sees inside of us during our struggle, namely the way we act and handle ourselves.
What comes out of us during our struggle. Or, the fruit of our struggle and pain.
What is inside of us during our struggle (Deut 8:2)
In Deut 8:2, it is said to the people of Israel: “You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness that he might humble you, testing you to know what is in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments.”
God did not expect Israel to hop, skip and jump through the desert and arrive in Canaan in one week. For God, Israel was victorious if they could suffer 40 years without sinning. It was about what God saw inside of his people during their struggle.
What is the fruit of our struggle (Rom 5:3-5)
In the New Testament, in Romans, there is some indication that it is not about the victory of Suffering but about what Suffering produces. This verse in Rom 5:3-5 says: “Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character. And character produces hope and hope does not put to shame.”
Where is the victory? It is not there. For God, the moment of struggle was about what that struggle produces: endurance, character, and hope.
Are we winners when we never win? Yes, because it is not whether are victorious. It is whether we are faithful in the process. Then, God will take care of the victory.
Teachable? Or stubborn?
If you go through a hard time right now: ask yourself:
What does God right now see in me? Is he happy or displeased with how I am responding?
Am I growing through this opportunity? Am I learning all that there is to learn here?
Sometimes, we learn until we have learned enough. If we are teachable, a lot of life lessons will never repeat. For example, if we are confronted with our mood and focus on changing this, the chances are that this is no longer a problem for people. We have learned the lesson and have become better at that particular sin. That is why teachability is so important in sanctification.
There needs to be a big asterisk here. Namely that some people never win in life. They suffer all of their lives from the moment they are born until the moment they die. In Hebrews, in the middle of God naming heroes, it is written that that some were tortured without deliverance (Heb 11:5). These people, however, were considered God’s heroes when they were called into heaven and where they were given a crown of victory.
So: be faithful in the struggle, because in the struggle lies the victory.