On the cross of Calvary, the greatest heavyweight boxing fight in history was practically over even before it started. Jesus was knocked out in the very first round.
Christians love to win. We sing praise songs declaring we are on the winning side. We give our churches names like “Winners’ Chapel.” Therefore, we readily appropriate the story of David killing Goliath. However, Jesus proffers in the New Testament a completely different approach. That approach is anathema to us killing any Goliaths. On the contrary, it requires us to lay down our lives. Jesus says: “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33).
Wining by losing
The Holy Spirit presented this challenge to me in no uncertain terms. He said: “Femi, you love to win don’t you? But in order for you to walk with me, you have to learn to lose. You have to accept defeat. Are you prepared to do this?”
This is a major facet of Jesus’ kingdom dynamics that Goliath-killing Christians refuse to understand. In the kingdom of God, we win by losing.
It is needful for Christians to appreciate that the true disciple of Jesus is first and foremost a loser as opposed to a winner. If we are not prepared to lose, we cannot walk with Jesus. It is true that the believer is “a winner in the Lord Jesus.” But being a winner in Christ is completely different from being a winner in the world like Goliath-killing David.
In order for us to be winners in Christ, we have to be losers in the world. In order for us to be winners in the spirit, we have to be losers in the flesh. That is the glory of the cross of Jesus, and that is the reason why many find Jesus’ approach to life so unacceptable. Jesus is a stumbling stone. He is a rock of offence because of the cross. The cross requires us to lose and not to win. But most Christians, don’t like to lose. As a result, we become enemies of the cross.
There is a wonderful Christian film made by the gospel singer Carman called “The Champion.” The finale is a boxing match and by the end of the film, the audience is on its feet. The good guy, a believer, knocks out the bad guy, an unbeliever. And when he lands the knockout punch and becomes the new Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, the Christian audience goes crazy with shouts of approval.
But the truth of the matter is that films like “The Champion” miss and undermine the fundamental message of Christianity, which is the cross. The Champion appeals to the flesh. The “baddie” is given a thorough beating. But Jesus does not excite the flesh. Indeed, Jesus does not appeal to the flesh. If “The Champion” had wanted to be true to the gospel, Carman would have lost the championship fight. And it would have been in losing it that he would have been victorious. That is the glory of the cross.
The glory of the cross is heavenly and it is spiritual. It is sown in dishonour. It is sown in weakness. It is sown in defeat. Today, many wear the cross as an ornament. But it was originally an instrument of humiliation, shame and defeat. Nobody would wear a cross in the days of Jesus. It would have been synonymous today to wearing an electric chair as an ornament.
On the cross of Calvary, the greatest heavyweight boxing fight in the history of the world was over practically before it started. Jesus was knocked out in the very first round. He himself proclaimed his own defeat. After he took the first few blows, he said: “It is finished.” Then he died and they carried him out feet first. They did not even rush him to the hospital. They dumped him in the grave and buried him. This is the antithesis of David killing Goliath.
The thieves crucified with Jesus put up a better fight. They took much longer to die. In fact, they had to break their bones in order to speed up their death.
Imagine this scenario. You have been training for months for an epic bout of your life. One week to the fight your trainer, the Holy Spirit, informs you that the man you are going to fight is actually no match for you. On a good day, you would knock him out in the very first minute of the very first round. Nevertheless, he tells you: “I want you to lose the fight. Throughout the fight, I don’t want you to throw any punch that will hurt him. In the third round, he will land one punch and I want you to fall down and stay down. The punch itself will not be that devastating. Nevertheless, I want you to allow yourself to be counted out.”
Just think what would happen if you were to obey. You would lose face. People would come to see you as nothing but a sissy. You would not be able to hold up your head in your neighbourhood. Nobody would have any regard for you again. You would become another shame-faced Roberto Duran who walked out on a major boxing match with Sugar Ray Leonard saying: “No more, no more,” and has never been able to live it down.
“Precious Holy Spirit; can’t I lose through a decision? Can’t you allow the fight to go the distance and then I lose on points? Must it be through a humiliating knock-out and as early as in the third round?” “Yes,” the Holy Spirit insists, “it must be through a knock-out in the third round. Your victory is going to be entirely spiritual. It is going to come from your exercise of self-control. It will be in the fact that this is a fight you could so easily have won but have chosen to lose for my sake. You are going to win this fight by losing it.”
Lamb of God
Jesus says: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18).
What would you do in such a situation? Can you “win by losing?” Can you agree to be defeated? Can you agree to lose a fight you are more than able to win? Can you agree to a situation in which, thereafter, every one regards you as a loser but only God sees you as a winner?
How can a Christian, of like passions with Elijah, be a lamb in the ring of life? How can we make it as a lamb in a world where the tough get going when the going gets tough? How can the lamb even get on the bus where there is only one seat left for thirty waiting passengers? That is the challenge of the Christian faith and the answer is anathema to David killing Goliath.
Jesus says: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27). (To be Continued).