“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” — Lamentations 3:21-23
In 1960, I was 13 years old so that would have been 60 years ago. Of all the things that happened in 1960, the one thing that stands out in my mind was a baseball game.
I played baseball. We did not have enough boys in our little town for a football team. Most of us were too short to play basketball.
At 13, we played Pony League. Our team was the Braves. We were good; no brag, just fact, and we knew it. The season was 16 games. Many of the games we scored 10 or more runs. The Braves were unbeatable, so we thought.
After the 16 game season came the championship playoffs. We lost! What? How could this be? We were unbeatable, but we lost. Sixty years ago and I remember us limping (the losers limp) off that field, with our heads down, defeated, crushed; our lives were over.
I think back on that tail-kicking we got and realize it may have not been such a bad thing to happen. We certainly learned a very valuable lesson. Nine little boys found out about defeat.
I was in a conversation once with a person for whom I have tremendous respect. This person made the statement, “One thing sports does is teach a person how to lose.” What? In the words of the great Adolph Rupp, “If it’s not about winning, why keep score?”
That was in the days before “participation trophies,” are handed out just for showing up. With the attitudes we had back then, we would have been insulted if anyone had offered a consolation trophy just for participating. I well remember having the opinion, “the first runner up is the first loser.”
Of course it’s about winning, but someone is going to lose. Sometimes, it is very difficult to pick it up and try again. Many of the world’s great inventions and discoveries were preceded by failures. Thomas Edison is said to have made over 1000 light bulbs before one finally worked.
When Jesus was on the cross, He said, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” I can imagine, in His tremendous agony, He felt as though he had been abandoned and had lost. Also, Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion was not answered. Luke 22: 42 “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
Three days later, He walked out of the tomb, resurrected and alive. He destroyed Satan for those that believe. Genesis 3: 15, “God said to the serpent, you will strike his heel and he will crush your head.” Jesus crushed the head of Satan once and for all!
In our competition with the forces of evil, we have been assured, we will always win. Jesus assured us eternity when He stated in John 3: 16. the words, “Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Those words are comforting to the heart, mind and soul.
Jesus gave us a freedom from the bondage of sin. We had been sentenced to the state of perishing (John 3: 16, “shall not perish”). Eternal separation from God was our eternity before Jesus.
Defeat can be as meaningful as winning, when we learn from it. I played sports enough to understand the disappointment of losing. There is always next season or the next game. You work harder, you try harder, and you determine what you did wrong and do not let it happen again.
With very limited exceptions, I do not watch sports on TV. However, I do value sports participation, especially for a young person. There are so many valuable lifetime lessons learned by playing on a team. Many years ago there was a TV show, ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The program began with sports clips and the unforgettable statement, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” I’ll never forget the skier at the bottom of the ski jump. He crashed into the side of the jump, thus, the agony of defeat. I’ve wondered what happened to him.
One TV show I watch occasionally is “American Ninja Warrior.” I love seeing those young people that have worked so hard to get so far. Then when they miss a step or lose a grip and fall, I hurt for them because I know how hard they’ve worked to get there. The work can be measured in years, and then lost in a split second.
God is good in that He gives second chances, and third and fourth. First John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He knows His creation, mankind, is imperfect. We need those additional chances.
I’ve wondered why God changed His covenant with us from, the law, to grace and mercy. (John 1: 17). It is because of His strength and our weakness. Jesus gave us a second chance, another opportunity to get in the game, the right way.
I am especially grateful for that, perhaps you are too.