Wanting to Win

What comes to mind when you think of the word “win”?

Given my competitive nature, winning in some kind of sport or game is the first thing that comes to mind.  I’m not athletic personally but love to watch sports and am definitely happy when my team wins.

And, given my propensity since I was born to think I’m always right, winning an argument or discussion comes to mind as well.  (Yes – now you know my sin nature well!)

Both of these fall under these definitions of “win” from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/:
2 a :  to gain in or as if in battle or contest <won the championship>
2 b :  to be the victor in <won the war>

The ministry I was involved with for over 25 years has as its strategy to “Win, Build, Send”.  Meaning to win people to Christ, build them in their faith, and then send them out to repeat the process.  So I have spent a lot of years focused on winning people to Christ.

Andy Stanley

But recently I was watching an Andy Stanley video that really made me think of how I define the word “win”.  If I define it with the definition above, that is a real problem.  But I think that there are times when Christians are doing evangelism that they use that definition.  It’s the idea that I am right about how someone is able to know God and how they should follow Him and you are wrong.  And so my goal is to show you how you are wrong and I am right and get you to agree with me.  Then I “win”.

When I reflect on how I defined “win” when it was part of “Win, Build Send”, I don’t think it was as much about winning an argument.  Instead it was about trying to clearly present the truth of the gospel, asking God to draw the person to Himself.  When they received Christ, they were “won”.

But there is another definition of “win”:
3 a :  to make friendly or favorable to oneself or to one’s cause —often used with over <won him over with persuasive arguments>
3 b :  to induce to accept oneself in marriage <was unable to win the woman he loved>

This is what Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-24:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.  I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” 

 When Paul talks about “winning” people, he means that he is choosing to be “winsome”.  He willingly gives up his personal rights in order to present the gospel to people in a way that is appealing, where they are won over by how beautiful and life-changing it is.

Peter mentions the same idea when he says,
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,”  1 Peter 3:1 

It’s the difference in their wives’ behavior because of the gospel that wins over the men.  Not a list of reasons they need to believe or an argument about why they are wrong.

All of this has led me to think lately about whether I make the gospel winsome.  When people are around me, does it make them want to know Christ?  What do they see in me?  Judging others?  Being negative and complaining about my life?  Saying unkind things about others?  Being impatient and short with people?  Being stressed out?  I’ve been convicted that when I give into my flesh and come across this way, I’m not being winsome at all.  Why would anyone want to know Christ if my life and behavior is unattractive?

Making the Christian life seem like a list of do’s and don’ts also isn’t winsome.   In the video, Andy Stanley gives examples of how to respond to questions by making following Christ an appealing choice.  It’s not that now that I follow Christ, I have to keep certain rules.  Instead, it’s that I’m given a life that has purpose and joy and protection among other incredible things.

How I pray I will increasingly make the gospel winsome to those who don’t know Christ!  I’m trying to be more aware of it all the time, not just when I’m leading a Bible study but also when I’m running errands or spending time with my family and friends.  I long for my life as well as my words to “win over” those who don’t know Christ.

(If you’d like to see the Andy Stanley video called “Insiders Outsiders”  click here.  He includes an example that is a story about Mark Driscoll’s appearance on “The View” with his wife.  This was before Mr. Driscoll was forced to resign from his church last fall.  My including this link here is not an opinion of Mr. Driscoll since all I know about the story is what I read on the internet.  Regardless, it is a good example of how to win people over to Christ.)

Don’t be Afraid

Before I met my husband, I always associated snow with being “snowed in”.  I liked being stuck inside all day, enjoying the beauty of the earth being covered in white.  At least for the first day anyway!

But my husband associates snow with “get out and drive around”.  This is part of the reason we pay to maintain his 1987 Suburban.  That thing can definitely get around in the snow!

KK in snowSo when it began to snow at 9pm one night in February, an hour later we got in the truck and headed to Krispy Kreme for hot doughnuts, making a stop at the local campus to pick up my college roommate’s son to join us.

After closing down the Krispy Kreme, we dropped him off on campus and tried to decide which way to head home – through town like we had been doing or on the beltline.  It was now midnight, and as we headed to the highway, the roads were completely covered with snow and hardly anyone was out driving in it.  Everyone else was “snowed in”.

We chose the beltline, but as soon as we got on the on-ramp, I realized it was a bad idea.  Or at least it was to me.  Because the comforting lights of the city were gone and suddenly there were no lights, no pavement in sight, no cars, few tire tracks, and pouring snow.  The guard rail on each side of the three lanes was really the only landmark to keep us on the right path.  I became overwhelmed by fear to the point that I felt sick to my stomach.

The road right before we got on the beltline.  Imagine this with no lights.

The road right before we got on the beltline. Imagine this with no lights.

In Numbers 13 and 14, we see another group of people struggling with fear.  It is 10 of the 12 spies that Moses sent to check out the Promised Land at God’s command (13:1-2).  They come back and report that the land is truly as wonderful as God had said that it was – flowing with “milk and honey”.  But the people who live there are strong and left the 10 spies in fear – which they then passed on to the Israelites when they shared their negative report from their trip.

The fear of the Israelites results in this response:
“Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.  And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt!  Or would that we had died in this wilderness!  And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?  Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’  So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.’”  (Numbers 14:1-4)

A little dramatic, don’t you think?  Like going back to slavery in Egypt is better than following where God calls to a land that He promised to Abraham to give to his descendants?  But that’s what fear can do.  We lose perspective about God.  They saw Him as wanting to harm them rather than do good for them.  And we forget what He has done.  They saw the 10 plagues, the Red Sea part, manna show up every day, water come from a rock, and Amalek be defeated – and that’s just for starters.  How could they forget all of that?  But fear can make us become forgetful rather quickly.

In contrast to the 10 spies and the Israelites are Caleb and Joshua.  Instead of seeing the obstacles and being fearful, their focus is on God and His promises and power.  They are confident that He is with them and will enable them to take possession of the land.  Fear doesn’t win out with these men –faith does.

It’s a sad story because the result is that God says that every Israelite who is 20-years-old and older won’t see the Promised Land because they didn’t trust Him.  So they turn back around and wander for 40 years until only their children and Joshua and Caleb are left to enter.  They missed out because they gave in to fear.

Whenever God is calling me to do something that scares me, He brings me back to this story.  Like when I bought my first home.  Doing that as a single woman whose income is dependent on the generosity of others, it scared me to death to make such a big purchase.  Or last year when He called me to step out in faith again and start a ministry to women in the workforce in my area.  What if I failed?  It was definitely not the easy path to choose.

But the Holy Spirit uses this story to push me forward.  Because I know I can choose to take a different path out of fear, but then I will miss the blessing.  Just like the Israelites did.  And I don’t want to miss out on what God has for me.  So I choose to trust Him instead and go forward, knowing He has already gone ahead of me (Deuteronomy 31:8).

The Lord took care of us in the snow, too.  I let fear overwhelm my faith in Him that night (as well as my faith in my husband who is the best snow driver I know).  It was a good reminder for me.  He says over and over in His word, “Do not be afraid.”  Because when we follow Him, there is no need for fear.

So what is He calling you to do?  Where does He want you to step out in faith?  Sharing your faith with a co-worker or neighbor or family member?  Starting a Bible study at work or in your neighborhood or in your church?  Making a job change?  Reconciling a broken relationship or drawing boundaries in an unhealthy one?  Is it scary or just exciting?  Don’t be an Israelite and miss out on the blessing!  Instead, be like Caleb and follow God fully (Numbers 14:24).