“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s game.”
Has victory defeated you? I’m still thinking about this concept from my last post. I believe it’s important to dig deeper in this area because it’s so hard to see it within yourself. We may unknowingly have the attitude of Batman in the most recent movie, which the villain Bane pointed out when he said, “Victory has defeated you.”
When victory comes, we all celebrate. But it also puts us at risk.
We are at risk of…
1. Thinking the battle is over.
Batman relaxed because he thought the enemy was defeated. You take a big risk when you think you’ve defeated something that wasn’t. This got settled in my soul the third year of 12Stone. In my racquetball league, I had made it to the championship, to compete against an “old man” (probably 45 years old, tops) who I’d been trying desperately to beat for years. I won the first match 15-0. In the second, I was leading 11-0 when I made a huge mistake. I stood up. Instead of remaining in a crouched “ready position” I relaxed a little. I was sure I was going to win. And the worst happened: my opponent came back to win that match, along with the next one. He took the championship away from me. Victory had defeated me.
There are moments in ministry right now when we’re standing up, but we should be crouching. The church has an enemy who is strategically working to take down our kingdom efforts. Satan is alive and well. There will never be peace in the spiritual battle. So we always need to be ready to fight.
2. Thinking your last success ensures your next success.
Take a look at Joshua 7. It’s after the Israelites’ huge victory at Jericho. Preparing to attack the city of Ai, they sent out spies again. This time the spies returned to say, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” (v. 3) So they relaxed. They didn’t prepare spiritually in the way that they needed to, and the sent only a few thousand. And they were routed by the opposing army.
Here’s the value of victory: it gives you the opportunity for the next battle. That’s huge. But it’s a mistake to believe that the next battle will somehow be easier to win. In reality, the same preparation is required. Are you at risk of assumption rather than attention?
3. Thinking you can ride on talent.
I recently read this article in USA Today about how Alabama football’s coach Nick Saban has handled his team’s position as defending national champions. Only two days after winning the BCS national title, Saban gathered the entire team in the locker room, minus the graduating seniors. Then he said to the remaining players, “This team is not the national championship team.… Nobody can take away what you did, but are you going to focus on what you did or about what you are going to do?”
It takes more than talent to win. It takes training, tenacity, and teamwork. But it’s easy to get comfortable with your accomplishments. Saban calls that the “success flu,” and it can lead to complacency and a weak work ethic.
Did you ever have more hunger than you do now? Where are you complacent? It’s hard to stay hungry when you’ve been satisfied. But the greatest threat to what God wants to do through your ministry could be within your team right now.
We all need to learn…
1. How to train like you’re hungry when you’re full.
Are you working to live, or to make a difference? With one, it’s easy to get to a state of satisfaction. With the other, the hunger never ends. Are you working to make a living? Or so that others might live?
2. To redraw the victory line.
For those in Christian ministry, we should never feel like we’ve reached enough people. If you’ve lost interest in reaching lost people because of the last person you won, then you’ve drawn the wrong line. That can happen in a ministry of 100 or 10,000. It all depends on where you draw the line.
3. How to trade what once worked for what will work.
None of us should have our job already “down”. Why? Because to keep pursuing a win, we need to change. To be willing to make the necessary tradeoffs, you need to combat Fear and Fat. It’s natural to be afraid of losing something in a tradeoff. And unfortunately, it’s natural to get fat: to get to a point where you’re too lazy to reinvent anything. At that point, victory will have defeated you.
What if the last victory was Jericho, and you still have the whole Promised Land to conquer?
Which of the three risks is your primary?
Which lesson do you most need to learn?