Have you ever heard of the game “Rook”? Over the holidays we had the opportunity of spending an evening playing Rook with a large group of friends. It was set up so that you rotate tables and each hand is played just a little differently. It was a little confusing trying to remember which color was trump or if we were going to double our score at the end, but it was a lot of fun! And then came the hand where the instructions were to lose. The winners would take the losers’ score and the losers would take the winners’ score. Now that was a mind stretcher, at least for me. It was hard to play to lose when you have been playing to win. Everything changed. Instead of laying down the highest card, I needed to lay the lowest. Instead of strategizing with my partner and trying to help him win, I needed to make sure we both lost. It was a complete change of direction and every decision made in that game relied on me remembering that change of direction.
It reminded me of the Christian Life and the change of direction that is required and the struggle that often comes with that change. The only difference is that in life we have been playing to lose. We have been playing for our own glory, our own gain, our own selfish pursuits. We have been causing havoc by demanding our own way, by not caring who we hurt, by using our material wealth for ourselves instead of helping others. And then God saves us. Suddenly, all of the rules have changed. Now we are supposed to be playing for God – His glory, His gain. We are supposed to be denying ourselves and thinking of others. It is a complete change of mind and direction. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it perfectly: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
For most of us, this change in direction presents quite a few challenges. If we are trying to live for God’s glory and not our own selfish desires, it changes everything. Self-denial comes hard– whether we are talking about what entertainment I fill my head with, what kind of steward I am with God’s money, or how I treat my friends.
The other day I sat down to watch a sitcom that my husband and I used to find quite entertaining. Reruns have come back on TV and as I had loved that show, I thought it would be fun to record them for a fun half hour break from life. The disappointing thing was when I watched, my conscience was pricked to the point that I didn’t even enjoy the show. I knew that filling my mind with this show was dishonoring my heavenly Father. The main character was a pathetic human being, bent on getting his own way no matter who he hurt in the process (and this was glorified and turned into comedy) and the dialogue was suggestive and impure.
I was excited to realize that I am growing spiritually! What I used to watch no longer even appealed to me. This is a sign that the change of direction is taking place.
Unfortunately, while this may be a positive change in my spiritual life, the more mature I grow in Christ, the more aware I am of the overwhelming sin in my life. And so, while I am thankful for that small bit of growth, I realize just how miniscule it is when compared to the spiritual growth that still needs to occur in my life.
In the card game, we returned to our original direction of playing to win in the next hand. But once we are a Christian, we should always be playing to win! Let’s not wallow in our losing, selfish state, as we are so apt to do. If you enjoy the same entertainment you did ten years ago, what does that say about your spiritual growth? If you are using your resources– time, money, and energy– the same way you did ten years ago, what does that say about your spiritual growth?
Let’s always play to win! And by so doing, we may stand out among the world as losers (John 15:18-19) but we can rest assured knowing we are heading in the right direction for eternity!