competition

This is a dangerous message that could easily be taken the wrong way, but I think that it may be useful–at least Paul seemed to think so (2 Cor. 8:8).  Here is another trial balloon for Our Daily Journey.

read > 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches (v. 8).

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut made tennis history when neither man could defeat the other.  Their first round match at Wimbledon was suspended because of darkness—twice.  Finally, on the third day, after playing more than 11 hours, Isner hit two brilliant shots to break Mahut’s serve and win the longest tennis match ever played.  The two players embraced at the net, posed for pictures with the overheated scoreboard, and praised each other for pushing their game to the limit.  Their competition had created something remarkable that neither could accomplish on their own.

        Competition can be a form of cooperation.  As Isner and Mahut combined to construct a compelling match, so Apple challenged Microsoft to make better computers and General Motors learned from Toyota how to build more reliable cars.  We raise our game when tested by a competitor, and together we make progress in whatever we are striving to win.  Our athletes, computers, and cars are better than before, thanks to the sharpening edge of competition. 

        Competition even has a role in church.  There is a bad form of competition, such as Jesus’ disciples arguing “about which of them was the greatest” in the kingdom (Mark 9:34).  This competition is lethal because it assumes that our contest is a zero-sum game where my victory means your defeat.

        But there is a good form of competition, such as when Paul encouraged the Corinthians to sacrifice like the Macedonians, who gave far more than they could afford.  It may also appear in our four gospels, as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John enlarge our understanding with their “competing” accounts of Jesus’ life. 

        Do you know someone whose purity, prayer life, Bible study, or giving attitude puts you to shame?  Use them as inspiration to elevate your game.  When we compete, God wins.

more > Read Philippians 1:12-18 to learn how we should respond when others are competing against us for the wrong reason. 

next > Is the point of competition to win or something higher?  How can we tell when we have slipped into unhealthy forms of competition?

10 Comments

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  1. I’m right there with yo Mike. Competition ought to be, and one day indeed will be, not for the end goal of winning, but with a telos of the glory of God. I wrote about this a little bit a couple months ago: http://pcscrib.blogspot.com/2010/05/does-god-belong-at-ballgame.html

  2. I like it, Mike. I so much agree, and it should be in the sense of us being in this together. In the end it’s all about helping each other in the way of Jesus for the world and no one really “wins” as in a contest. Though maybe I’m wrong on that one, as it does seem that in the kingdom in the end, rewards are given according to faithfulness. But I think we do our part by simply seeking to draw near to God, loving God and others, and seeking to fulfill our calling. That will be unique for us all, but I’ve noticed that those who seem to excel in that way have awakened in me a desire to follow the same path, surely prompted in me by the Spirit. We need much more of that.

  3. Jonathan Shelley July 19, 2010 — 11:57 am

    So LeBron going to Miami could be a good thing for Cleveland since it has made the Cavs owners that much more motivated to win a championship. Perhaps God did tell LeBron to go so winning the upcoming championship would clearly be the work of God and not man, ala Gideon and the Midianites.

  4. If it’s good for church, then God must have done it first.

    If God is a community of self giving lovers (DSB ch3), what would a competition in that community look like?

    In the eternal council a round robin of provocations breaks out into a, cause your neighbor to flourish competition. One provokes the other two. Each of them in turn provokes the others. Who knows who started it but the intensity of the contest grows into the perfect storm. It spills out into creations, companies of angelic beings, a decreed rebellion, then, a universe with many other creatures, even those made in his own image after his own likeness, then another decree that sin would be. This is followed by a plan of redemption where, the Father loses the Son, the Son loses his life, now the Spirit takes his turn at giving himself up, drafting players and coaching the franchise of misfits here on planet earth. The competition is on within this new community of self giving lovers and needs to be spilling out. The team’s best competitors pay particular attention to the playbook where it says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Mt. 10:39.

    The section in DSB ch3 titled “Christians Make The Best Lovers”, could just as easily have been called, “Christians Are The Biggest Losers”.

  5. It’s good, and I never thought about the Corinthians passage in that way. If I ever preach that passage I may even steal that idea. However, for the record, Microsoft does not make or sell computers, only software.

  6. Romans 12:10 tells us to “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

    No, Jonathan Shelley, YOU have the greatest theological mind of this new millennium. (Now it’s your turn.)

  7. Jonathan Shelley July 23, 2010 — 11:43 am

    Matthew:

    I’ll ignore the sarcasm dripping off your comment, attribute it to your uncle, and use it as an endorsement for any and all forthcoming books. Finally, the recognition I’ve always demanded and yet done absolutely nothing to merit.

  8. Chuck:

    That’s a good word.

    John:

    Good catch on the software point. I’ll fix that.

    Matt:

    Thanks for Rom. 12:10–unfortunately it doesn’t say that in the New Living, and I don’t know if I have the space to explain the Greek–but that’s a great verse on point.

  9. Matt:

    I decided that your insight was too good to pass up, so I swapped it in for the sentence on the four gospels (which was probably a reach anyway!) The paragraph now reads like this:

    But there is a good form of competition, such as when Paul encouraged the Corinthians to sacrifice like the Macedonians, who gave far more than they could afford. Likewise, Paul challenged the Romans to proēgoumenoi, or to “outdo one another in honoring each other” (Rom. 12:10). How’s that for friendly competition?

    Thanks for making this a significantly better devotional! I think that more people will relate to Rom. 12:10 than the 4 gospels.

  10. No problem. Paul beats the gospels any day!

    *Ducks for cover*

    Honestly, I don’t go for the “cannon within the cannon,” but the verse more concretely exemplifies your very helpful point.

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