I Want to Win!

  • Randy Karlberg
Two people playing foosball on a mini table

I grew up in a reasonably competitive family. My children, on the other hand, grew up in an extremely competitive family. You might say that the parents have something to do with the level of competitiveness, and you would be correct. Both Lana and I are very competitive people. For me it depends on what we are talking about as to how competitive I am. There are things that I just don’t really concern myself with and thus I am not too competitive. But what gets my competitive juices flowing is when I am in a contest with someone else who really wants to win. For some reason I find a small sense of satisfaction in competing with someone who really wants to win, especially if I have a clue as to the game or contest. But I also find it a tad humorous to watch people who are competitive at everything and get themselves all worked up over things. I just enjoy throwing a few prodding statements their way. You may think that that is cruel and not a tactic a true believer should employ. But I would counter with this is a Biblical principle! Need I remind you in I Kings 18 when Elijah was competing against the prophets of Baal? They were having a hard time with Baal’s lack of responsiveness to their requests for fire to come down from Heaven. Elijah knew it was because Baal was an idol who was not a real god! However, in verse 27 we are told “Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’” Would I be mistaken to take that as a Biblical principle of how to treat overly competitive people? Okay, you are right! That would be a mistake. Pretty funny though?!

In all seriousness, my wife Lana and I have had to learn a few marital lessons regarding competitiveness. You see, early in our marriage we would get into arguments or “strong discussions”, and we would just keep on expressing our side of the issue. After more years than it should have taken, we realized that a large part of our disagreements were not because we felt so strongly about the topic of discrepancy. We kept the lively conversation going because we wanted to Win!! I would be lying if I told you that we have not been challenged with this from time to time in the past 30+ years. But we have grown in our faith and trust in the Lord to take care of our spouse’s issues. Okay, please know that the last line was a total joke! We have definitely grown in our faith and trust in the Lord! And God, in His mercy, has revealed to each of us a clearer view of ourselves which helps us be more humble realizing who we truly are. We have enough growth needed in each of us to not worry about the minor shortcomings in our spouse. And for that I am so very thankful to the Lord.

So what do we do with this competitive nature that boils up inside of us? Is it always sin? Is there ever a place for competitiveness to be exercised? I actually believe that competitiveness and the primal desire to be right quickly becomes sinful. We must keep our hearts in check and test the spirit in us for righteous intent. We can easily fool ourselves. We should ask the Lord to test our heart and see if our thoughts are His thoughts. Listen to David who wrestled with this in his words at the end of Psalm 139:22-24. “I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Verse 22 sounds very much like David was dealing with competitiveness and wondering if it was righteous hatred or not. That is why he asks in verses 23 & 24 for God to judge his heart and lead him to eternal glory. We need to be regularly asking our Heavenly Father to know us and to search our hearts. We must not rely on our own conclusions but rather be fully in tune with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us!

If anyone had the right to put overly competitive and self-righteous people in their place it was Jesus Christ! Think about the number of times that the “so called” experts in the Law tried to challenge Him with the meaning and knowledge of Scripture. We get a smile on our faces as we see Him succinctly pointing out their misguided conclusions time after time. And yet Jesus not only modeled for us how to put aside competitiveness for competition sake, but also how to exercise restraint for righteousness sake. We need to wrestle with Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-42. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” We need to take these commands seriously! After all, Jesus took them seriously! Ask God to show you where you need to make changes in your life and in the way you interact with others. No better example is given than in Matthew 27:14, when Jesus was being falsely accused in a trumped-up trial. He did not even open His mouth to defend Himself against His accusers. He really practiced what we read in I Peter 3 “Do not repay evil for evil or insult for insult.”

Are you like me and struggle with your competitiveness getting in the way of your relationships and more importantly your righteous life? Do you find yourself getting pulled into gossip to “set the record straight” or maybe to teach someone some truth, even defend yourself? Or are you one who has a tendency to respond to a social media post or an email without pausing, taking the time to pray, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your response? May we be people who regularly pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Do Your work in us, Oh Lord, we pray!!