David Ortiz ended his baseball career Monday night. It was not a storybook ending. Of course, everyone dreams of ending on a high note, ending as a winner.
Ortiz, and his team, the Red Sox, had a great season. They won the eastern division championship. But they lost the last two games of the regular season and were swept three games to none in the first round of the playoffs. These things happen in sports and in life.
Years ago I had a teacher who used to say, “I never saw a winner that wasn’t winning.” If that were true, then David Ortiz is a loser. But that is completely silly. Sure, he lost a lot of games, he struck out hundreds (maybe thousands) of times. But his fifteen year career was marked by a lot of success as well. Calling him a loser because the last five games were all losses would indicate a terrible lack perspective.
And my point?
I know too many Christians who are quick to pronounce themselves, or the church, a failure. As soon as things go wrong, personally or congregationally, panic or depression sets in.
Was Peter a failure? He did some foolish and faithless things; but Peter, the arrogant and ignorant fisherman, became a great preacher.
Was Paul a failure? He did some incredibly harmful things. He ended life in a Roman jail. But his writings have lived on after him. His words still instruct and inspire disciples today.
Was Jesus a failure? He often had nowhere to lay his head. His enemies successfully conspired against him. His friends deserted him. He died alone. Yet he was no loser. The ultimate victory remains his.
And we, though we will often fail, are not failures. Jesus shares that ultimate victory with us.
Personally, I have often seen losers who were temporarily winning. I have also seen winners who were losing. The ultimate victory is not a matter of the moment but of eternity. Someday we will see many (apparent) winners who turned out to be losers, and a one time (apparent) loser ruling over all.