In this “season of absolutes,” where candidates vie for the title of “Leader of the Free World,” teams battle to be “World Series Champion” and contestants compete for the distinction of “Ultimate Survivor,” we are encouraged, and maybe even begin, to believe one mantra.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.  -Vince Lombardi

There seems to be no place for second best in the world today.  If you don’t win at something, you either didn’t try hard enough or aren’t good enough.  Whichever you choose to be the case, doesn’t allow much room for effort, circumstances, grace or heart.

I played sports throughout my childhood, ran for a number of school offices and competed in a multitude of events.  Although I would like to think I won more than I lost, there never seemed to be a substitute for first place.  I was either a winner or I was a loser.  To add to my disappointments when I didn’t win, I was instructed to be a “good” loser.  

Even to this day, I hear well-meaning coaches, parents and friends instructing young people in this way, almost apologetically.

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.  -Vince Lombardi

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a conference listening to a Christian speaker with whom I was unfamiliar.  He perked my attention because he spoke of this identical dilemma he faced as a child of being taught there was no alternative to winning, but in the event he doesn’t win to be a good loser about it.  He asked himself and queried us, “Why would I or anyone want to be good at losing?” 

That one question he posed made me consider how I pursue winning, success and accomplishments, and how I evaluate losses and disappointments in my life.

At times, it seems as if some of our churches today have propagated the notion that as Christians we should be “good losers,” accepting of failure and tolerate a less than complete effort.  

Luke 6:29 becomes the justification for a portion of that mindset, “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.”  However, this passage speaks of being merciful and loving towards your enemies, not having a lower standard by which to live by or thinking less of yourself in comparison to others.

Another defense is the passage from the Parable of Workers in the Vineyard, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last”  (Matthew 20:16).  The landowner was making the point it was his decision and his alone as to what he was to do with his money, and for us to live up to what we agree to do without regard to what others have arranged.  This verse isn’t an excuse for not doing our best or striving to be all we were meant to be.

Jesus didn’t come to just “get by,” be a part of the crowd and lead a life that was just satisfactory.  

When His mother told Him “John 2,” at the wedding, He didn’t just come up with a bottle or two.  According to many He produced approximately one hundred gallons of wine (six pots holding two or three firkins, thought to be about 7-1/2 gallons per firkin).

Jesus was alerted there were five thousand hungry followers in his midst.  He blessed the bread and fish He received from a boy and “They all ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 15:37).