By Joel Deacon
God is a competitive God
I am an incredibly competitive person. I like to win. Hand me a deck of cards and I transform into a ruthless competitor. Put me in front of a Monopoly board and I will show no mercy. You might not be as competitive as me, but my guess is you hate to lose, and you love to win. No one runs onto a soccer field or buys a lottery ticket hoping to lose. Winning is important to us and, believe it or not, it’s important to God as well.
How do I know this? Well because of 1 Corinthians 9. Paul writes, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews” (1 Cor 9:19-20). You see God cares about winning people, because God cares about saving people. Which begs the question: how do you win people for Christ? Well, in this 1 Corinthians 9 passage above Paul tells us that winning people for Jesus requires sacrifice.
Paul was a free man, he was free from slavery to sin. And yet Paul uses this freedom to sacrificially become enslaved to the cause of winning souls. One example is that for the sake of Jews, Paul acted like a Jew. He dressed, ate and spoke like a Jew. He even gave up bacon for the Jews. Specifically, in Acts 21 Paul purified himself at the temple and paid a purification tax, that he didn’t have to pay, for the sake of the Jews. To win Jewish souls for Christ Paul made sacrifices, but on top of this Paul made sacrifices for the Gentiles as well. To those without the law, he become like one without the law (1 Cor 9:21). Specifically we see this in Acts 17 when Paul used the Gentile way of thinking to appeal to them, by quoting from their literature (Acts 17:28) and basing his argument on an inscription he had seen on one of their altars (17:23).
Paul made sacrifices, he put aside his personal preferences, his rights, his freedom in order that he might love people and win them for Christ. To walk alongside people and share the gospel with them, he had to identify himself with them and put himself in their shoes. Not to join them in their sin or wrongdoing, but to ensure that as a messenger of the good news he wasn’t a distraction or a stumbling block to those who he was trying to reach. Paul’s eyes were fixed on becoming all things to all people so that many would be saved. Paul knew that making disciples requires making sacrifices.
Eddie Hall’s sacrifices
Recently, I watched a documentary called Eddie: Strongman. Eddie Hall is a professional strongman, whose life ambition is to win the “world’s strongest man” competition. Eddie knows that winning requires sacrifice. He is 6 foot, 3 inches tall and weighs 185kg. He spends about 14 hours a week working out. During gruelling weights sessions and competitions he has vomited, passed out, torn muscles and even had an eye ball pop out. On top of all this physical sacrifice, Eddie also spends about $400 a week on food in order to eat 10,000 calories a day. But all this seems more than worth it for Eddie, because he is fixed on achieving his life goal of becoming the world’s strongest man. Like the apostle Paul, Eddie knows that winning requires sacrifice, what about us?
What sacrifices are we willingly to make, so that we can make disciples for Jesus?
In life there are plenty of spontaneous, Spirit-led opportunities to share the gospel and yet such opportunities require us to face our fears as well as awkward moments. At your workplace, neighbourhood or place of study talking about Jesus will come at a social cost, the question is will you embrace this cost? Winning people for Jesus comes at a price and sometimes we need to sacrifice Christian ministries and friendships so we have the capacity to love and win others for Christ. To win people for Christ we will think about being loyal to one cafe, even when the coffee isn’t the best, so we can get to know the barista better. Sometimes we will watch sport we don’t like, listen to music that makes us cringe or eat food that makes us squirm because we want to win people for Jesus. God has placed us where we are, with the gifts and circumstances we have to win people for Jesus.
Winning people for Jesus can seem like a daunting task, but the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has already completed the ultimate sacrifice. The good news is that our cross is much smaller than Jesus’. As we seek to win souls for Jesus, may we never forget what Christ sacrificed to win our souls.
Question: Whom are we trying to win for Jesus and what sacrifices are we making to win them for Christ?