The movie Talladaga Nights made the line, “If you are not first you are last” famous. The not so theologicaly correct movie is a fictional comedy and that line is not meant to be taken seriously. However, it is likely you have also heard it quoted on a sports field or even in a meeting at work. The reality is that it is easy to get sucked into this line of thinking. There is a business success book that actually uses the quote from Talladaga Nights it’s title. Back in 1930 UCLA coach Red Sanders said. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Since then many coaches (including Vince Lombardy), politicians, and business leaders have used this saying and others like it. Too many people live as if this is their life’s motto. Our society is obsessed with winning. We get sucked into making comparisons and measuring ourselves against others in just about all areas of our lives.

What About You?

In which areas of your life are you trying to win? Are you trying to outdo your friends, neighbors, and coworkers at work, at wealth, in games, in health and fitness, or in personal or social success? Maybe it’s the success of your kids in academics, arts, athletics, or socially that keeps you up at night? We all know someone who has gone to extremes to finish first or to see their kids finish first, but if we are honest we too are often tempted to fall into this trap. 

The Last Will Be First 

It is true that we are made to pursue dreams and do the best with what we have been given; however, what we pursue is of eternal importance. Jesus had a lot to say about chasing the things of this world and trying to outdo others. He said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).  And, as Jesus was teaching about fairness, wages, and the kingdom He said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Our Creator God made us for Himself (Isaiah 43:1) and no amount of winning on earth will ever satisfy the way God intends for us to be ultimately satisfied. Instead, God made us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). This does not mean to stop pursuing goals, dreams, and even competitions that compliment the pursuit our life’s purpose and intended destination. Instead, it means to adopt God’s definition of ultimate victory. 

7 Attributes Of Winners 

The Bible has a lot to say about winning including what it takes to compete and finish in victory. Here are seven attributes of winners to guide you on the path to victory:

  1. Gifted - possess specific talents and abilities “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” - 1 Peter 4:10-11. 
  2. Focused - goal oriented, with vision to see possibilities “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” - Acts 2:17
  3. Passionate - strong desire to accomplish the mission  “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” - Philippians 1:23
  4. Dependent - humility to know it can’t be done alone “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” - Philippians 2:13
  5. Disciplined - pursuit of goals with relentless intentionality and detailed preparation “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” - 1 Corinthians 9:25
  6. Surrendered - fully understanding the cost of the pursuit And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” - Luke 14:27-2
  7. Confident  - sure of the outcome, looking forward to the reward “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” - 1 Corinthians 15:57

In summary, winners are gifted people who are focused on specific goals that they pursue with relentless passion, intentional discipline and detailed preparation. Confident in the outcome, they understand the cost of their pursuit and humbly surrender that which is not necessary to the mission as they look forward to their reward.

Over the next few weeks we are going to dig deeper into the seven attributes of winners. We will showcase examples of athletes and people from all walks of life. Most importantly, we will closely examine God’s Word and learn how He defines these attributes and how He leads us to victory.

Please email me your questions, ideas, examples, and feedback as we learn together: hgraham@thecentermemphis.org


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