How to Win at Life
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5
I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned that my father is a pastor (now retired), so I basically grew up in church. I can still remember a specific poster that someone hung in one of the kid’s Sunday School classrooms, depicting an athlete winning a race, with this Bible verse as the caption – I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). The implication was clear to me. If I believed in God, he would make me a phenomenal athlete, without all the annoying training. God was my secret weapon and because I believed in him, I’d have a supernatural edge in any competition – or any endeavor in life really. Because of my faith in God, I was going to win at life.
Today’s passage is somewhat similar to the Philippians passage. In it, John said that because of our faith in God, we will be victorious, overcoming the world. I may have grown older, but the temptation still is to think that my faith in God will cause me to win at everything in life, getting whatever I want. This self-centered view reveals that I really don’t understand faith at all. In fact, as long as I’m most concerned with getting what I want, I cannot live by faith.
Faith is daily pointing my life at God, abandoning my will to follow his. Faith doesn’t mean that I believe God exists and so he gives me whatever I want. Faith means I believe in God and make my behavior follow what I claim to believe. So, to live by faith means that I align myself with God’s will, not my own. In doing so, I pursue and follow the one who made the universe who, in the end, is going to overcome all that is opposed to him.
Overcoming the world, in this sense, may not mean what I think it does. I want it to mean that I win at the American dream, getting everything I want. Pursuing my natural appetite though has been the surest and fastest route to emptiness, misery, and despair. Authentic life, joy, and peace has paradoxically been found only in abandoning my way for God’s. This hasn’t meant I get what I think I want. It’s meant I get what God knows I need. For me, the only way to win at life is to throw out the old version of the game and play a completely different one, making a daily effort not to live my way, but God’s.