I always enjoyed watching my kids play sports. If they did something good, we would get that little pump of excitement and joy and cheer them on all the more. Of course, we had to be careful to be encouraging to everyone including the players on the other team. After all, the big statement at children’s sporting events is, “it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.” I know that this is what all the parents and coaches say, but I also know that sport is a little futile if you are not playing to win. Why can’t we teach our kids to be kind and gracious in both victory and defeat? Why does sportsmanship have to contradict zeal for the win? Can’t we teach discipline and zeal right alongside grace and kindness?
Ultimately, when people don’t play with a win in mind, they play with a half-hearted passion and have less stamina to play through difficulty. Winning is not something that Christians often consider as part of our lives, but we should. Even in our eschatological differences, Christians should agree that victory is necessary for hope and encouragement in our life in this world. The whole book of Revelation is given to a persecuted church. It was written to encourage them to persevere in a difficult world as they look forward to participating in the victory already obtained by Christ. The difference for the Christian is that our victory with Christ has already been made certain in the cross and has sealed the conquest of the future and final day. We live today in victory for final victory.
In Revelation 12 John gives us a picture of a woman who battles with a great dragon as she gives birth to a male child. It is difficult not to recognize this child as Jesus. John writes, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” (Rev 12:5). This is a direct reference to Psalm 2:9 where the Psalmist looks to a Messiah who will defeat the earthly nations of the world and rule with all authority. Jesus was indeed born into a situation of conflict against a dragon who sought to destroy the seed of the woman.
John tells us that this child that was caught up to God’s throne defeated the ancient serpent and deceiver of the world and threw him down. This seems to say that Satan has already suffered his great defeat. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, sin and death have been defeated and Christ has ascended to the throne of all rule and authority as the true King over all. We live in this victory, but we are still playing for the final whistle to blow.
Between now and ultimate victory there is no room for apathy. “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Rev. 12:17). We are reminded by this verse that we are still in a real war in this world until Christ blows that final whistle. Without the previous verses showing us Jesus’ comprehensive victory through the cross, we would be discouraged about having to persevere in this world. It may seem to us that all is lost. When we acknowledge victory, it changes our view. We are playing now for a victory already won. Even while our enemy is a prowling lion, our focus on that victory gives us hope and will to persevere. We are playing with ultimate conquest in view. We play with strength, hope, vigor, and boldness. We don’t have to be afraid of the dragon’s tactics because the child has already thrown him down and we await our Captain’s return.
Without that acknowledgement of victory, there is no answer for fear or anxiety or for a desire to live up to the expectations of the Victor. There is no encouragement to persevere through hardship or persecution. But victory for the Christian is indeed a reality in Christ.
Wining matters. So, play hard and persevere in Jesus until he comes.