FIRST-PERSON: Don't be a sore loser

EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- In the movie "On the Waterfront," Terry Malloy was a dockworker who had been a promising young prizefighter until a mob-connected union boss instructed him to deliberately lose a fight he could have won.

Later Terry found his own life in danger and was in anguish about having thrown the fight. "You don't understand," he said to his brother. "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am."

In throwing the fight, Terry had thrown away his career, his future and, most of all, his self-respect.

The late W.A. Criswell once preached a sermon on Demas. In Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24, Criswell pointed out, Demas was working alongside the apostle Paul in Rome. But years later Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:10 that "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world."(1)

Demas could have been somebody. But he wasn't willing to let loose of the world.

'Remember Lot's wife'

The Bible has many stories of men and women who could have been somebody. Instead they became half hearted followers, half-committed disciples, people who started down the road but looked back. They weren't willing to choose the right "losses."

One of the shortest verses in the Bible is Luke 17:32: "Remember Lot's wife." Jesus was referring to Genesis 19 when Lot and his family had settled in the sordid city of Sodom. They could have built a home anywhere in the Jordan Valley but they chose a city known for both its commercial success and its sexual perversion. They became affluent there, and Lot's wife loved her house, her lifestyle, her stature and her accumulated possessions.

Mrs. Lot's problem was that the world had seeped into her. When angelic messengers warned her to flee with her family for their lives, she left grudgingly. Even when cautioned not to look back, she glanced over her shoulder and turned into a human pillar of salt.

The same point could be made with the story of Achan, who was unwilling to lose his plunder (Joshua 7); Saul, who was unwilling to rid himself of envy (1 Samuel 19); or Judas, who wouldn't uncurl his tightened fingers from the moneybag (John 13:21-30).

The apostle Paul helps us understand what our attitude should be about accumulating possessions in a society facing judgment. "Time is short . ..," he wrote. "Those who buy something [should use it] as if it were not theirs to keep . .. For this world in its present form is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:29-31, NIV).

All our possessions are going up in smoke one day. Better not set our hearts on them. Better use what we have with gratitude, holding it lightly. Sometimes we have more by having less.

That's why the Lord, in His mercy, sometimes takes from our lives things that might hinder our spiritual progress. Sometimes our greatest blessings are seen in the God-sent losses. Though unwelcome at the time, they afterward yield a harvest of righteousness. Our Lord loves us enough to take from us things that might, in His divine foresight, prove to be harmful for our souls or for the work of His Kingdom.

"Loss" is not always a bad term. Paul wrote, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:7-8).

There are some things we should be happy to lose. Jesus said, "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39).

Don't be afraid to let go of things, and when the Lord takes things from your life, don't be a sore loser. When you escape Sodom, don't look back.

(1) W. A. Criswell's, "Loving the Wrong World," preached on November 23, 1958, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, accessed on January 11, 2009, at http://www.wacriswell.com/index.cfm/FuseAction/Search.Transcripts/sermon/1098.cfm.

David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of "Turning Point for God." For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@tursningpointonline.org.
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