God prefers losers.
That statement sounds positively un-American. As General George Patton famously remarked, "Americans love a winner. America will not tolerate a loser." Then we have this from Coach Vince Lombardi: "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser." We all want to be on the winning team, don't we? That's why millions of people filled out brackets during March Madness, and it's also why over 100,000 people gathered at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky last Saturday for the Kentucky Derby. And it's why millions more watched the live telecast. That multitude included my wife and me. I learned about the back stories on a number of different horses and their owners. So you find yourself inevitably pulling for this horse or for that jockey or for that set of owners. I say that as someone who generally has no interest whatsoever in horse racing. But the truth is, if I'm watching a sporting event where I don't already have a favorite team, I'll pick one of the teams to root for. I just do that automatically. I suppose most people are like that. We like competition, and we like to be on the winning side.
But the preeminent example is football. At least down South it's always football. Here in Mississippi we have a heated rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. A few miles east you have Alabama and Auburn. Further south you have Florida and Florida State. Up north you have Ohio State and Michigan. In South Bend you have Notre Dame versus everyone else.
A year ago I attended the Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus, Ohio. I was one of over 100,000 fans who gathered in the stands to watch one of the most storied rivalries in college football. A few days after the game a friend sent me a copy of The Winners Manual by Jim Tressel, head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Besides being a fine coach (his teams at Youngstown State and Ohio State have won five national championships), he is also a man of character and a strong Christian. In his chapter on "Handling Adversity and Success," Tressel includes this provocative quote from Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft:
"Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can't lose."
Then he adds his own commentary:
"I love that quote because it puts so many things in perspective. When 'smart people' think they can't lose, there's an upset brewing. That's when David beats Goliath and the underdog triumphs" (p. 156).
That's the problem with winners. Once you think you can't lose, you feel invincible. At that point, you're about to become a loser. You just don't know it yet. You can win too much, too soon, too easily. Before long you prove the old adage that it's just a short step from victory to defeat. For all the problems that losing brings, at least it cures the illusion of invincibility.
When I say God prefers losers, I mean he prefers people who know their weakness, see their flaws, admit their mistakes, and cry out to him for help. God specializes in taking losers and displaying his power through them. During a radio interview I was asked why so many of the heroes of the Bible had serious flaws. My answer was simple. That's all God has to work with. All the perfect people are in heaven. The only ones on earth are the folks with serious weaknesses. The talent pool has always been pretty thin when it comes to moral perfection. So God works with sinners because that's all he has to work with. In heaven we will all be perfected by God's grace. But until then, he uses some pretty ornery people who fall short in many ways, and he does some amazing things through them.
You can read the rest of the message online.