This Easter season I’ve been haunted by this question, “Is it possible to Win by Losing?” Jesus said in Luke 9:24 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” This central message of Jesus and His upside down Kingdom wrapped up in the story of Easter is in such direct contradiction to all the other voices inside and outside of us telling us that the way to win is by stepping on anyone who gets in the way, taking more than we need, and never revealing our weakness.

Does winning by losing really work in real life?

Growing up playing sports, I naturally learned that the end goal of most games is to win! I hated losing…just ask the Montreal Canadians what it feels like to be knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs! The sting of failure was to be avoided at all costs. Thus that competitive nature became part of my DNA and was transferred into my vocation as a pastor. It was all about growing my church, even if it was through the transfer of disgruntled sheep from another church. Secretly, though I would never admit it, there was a part of me that would relish any juicy news about the demise of a “successful” larger church that I viewed as my competition. I cringed at the thought of going to  ministerials – those monthly lunches for pastors – where usually the first or second question asked was, “So how big is your church?” This question seemed to just re-inforce the sense of failure in most of us as we measured ourselves up against the measuring stick of those pastors and churches that were growing quickly in size. So most of us, if we were honest, would slightly embelish the size of our congregation to anesthetize that ever present sense of failure.  I used to get this tight knot in my stomach when I would catch wind of the news that someone was considering leaving our church, especially when it was someone who I had identified as a potential “leader” who would help the church grow, and who I had invested lots of time into . What really bugged me and bummed me out was when I would hear that this same individual had ended up at one of those “bigger, successful” churches and had been fast tracked into leadership!

Now don’t get me wrong. I think there is a place and time for some good old healthy competition when playing a game of soccer or Settlers, and I think growing numerically is a good thing and one sign of health. Any healthy organism will reproduce. What is slowly changing in me are two core issues: My significance, self worth, and success are not measured first and foremost in the size of my church, bank account, house, or whether I am recognized as important by my position, title, visible accomplishments, or by whether I am part of the “in group” of power people.

The other thing that is changing in me is finding a new measuring stick or scorecard for winning. I am becoming Kingdom-centric or maybe as my kids think sometimes, a little eccentric! When the Kingom of God wins we all win.  What is changing in me is the need to compete with folks who are on the same team, the need to be in the center, and the need to be in control because of the fear of loss or failure. These motivators are slowly losing their grip. I’m learning to measure success by a different set of rules that define what it means to win. The Kingdom wins when with God’s help we get to create contexts for people and communities to co-operate and connect on a deeper heart level that leads to sacrifcial, yet joyful sharing of resources to advance His Kingdom. The Kingdom wins when instead of competing we cheer on those who pass us by, especially the younger generation. The Kingdom wins when we help start stuff and then get out of the center even if others get the credit. The Kingdom wins when we become friends with the little, the least, and the lost. The Kingdom wins when we serve in our community and see people come to know Jesus no matter what church they end up in.  The Kingdom wins when we spend hours pouring our lives into people to see them grow up in Jesus. The Kingdom wins when missional communities are planted whether they become part of our tribe, organization, or not. It’s no longer about me winning. It’s about letting go! It’s about being free when I realize that I own no one or anything. I am simply a care-taker of what belongs to God.

The other day I happened to flick on the TV and caught an episode of the Oprah show. On the show the producer and director for movies such as Liar-Liar, Bruce Almighty, and a host of other very profitable and successful movies, Tom Shadyac, was being interviewed by Oprah. Tom shares how he bought into the gospel that happiness is achieved through fame and wealth. He owned a few homes including a 17,000 square foot mansion in LA, flew around in private jets, purchased expensive art, and hobnobbed with all the movers and shakers in Hollywood, yet on the inside he was empty. So Tom decided to go on a spiritual quest. He sold most of his possessions, gave away most of his money, moved into a 1000 square foot trailer, simplified his life and let go of fame by choosing to produce his own indie films.

After a life threatening bike accident, Tom asked the question, “If I am about to die what is the one message I want to leave behind?” His message is summed up in the documentary called “I AM”. After interviewing spiritual leaders and scientists all around the world, what he discovered is this: 1. Scientifically it is proven that we are all inter-connected. 2. We are all hard wired to co-operate not dominate. 3. We die a little every day if we don’t do what we love!

It struck me as I listened to the interview that the message he was living sounded very much like the teachings of Jesus. Here before my eyes was a powerful confirmation that the Kingdom way works.  In Tom’s story was living proof that this message of winning by losing resonates with the heartcry in all of us for real freedom. Below is the link to his website and I think this documentary would be a great conversation starter with folks you know who are seekers. During the interview, Oprah kept asking Tom if he had found happiness and his consistent reply was YES!

‘When all your desires are distilled, you will cast two votes: TO LOVE MORE AND TO BE HAPPY.”  Hafiz

Where are you being challenged to live a life of winning by losing?

Learning to be a dead man walking,