Learning to Lose

In modern society, there is an overwhelming emphasis on winning. Whether it be from a game to an argument, winning is almost always the desired outcome of any situation. We love winning as it elicits positive emotions, feelings of accomplishment, and self worth. Experts in discussions, negotiations, and even relationships, push the objective of achieving win-win situations. However, surprising as it may be, the Lord does not always desire that we win. In fact, He often wants us to lose.

You may be asking, “Why on earth would the Lord want us to lose or suffer loss?” Simply put, in God’s economy, loss is the prerequisite to increase, spiritual growth, and fulfillment. Losing and loss come in many shapes and forms. You can lose your reputation, friends, possessions, arguments, and even your life, among other things. Often loss can come in the form of laying things down, which we hold dear or are keeping us in a state of pride. It can also come in the form of being falsely accused or punished, and not defending oneself (Paul comes to mind). Let me give you a few examples:

One day Jesus was walking and a rich young ruler came to Him and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He replied by saying that he must keep all the commandments. The rich young ruler said that he had kept them all from his youth. Jesus lovingly replied that he lacked one thing… he must sell all that he had and give it to the poor to inherit riches in heaven, and that he must take up the cross and follow Him. (Summarized Mark 10:17-22)

Here we see that before this young man could obtain the riches of Christ he had to suffer great personal loss… His possessions. The Lord knows exactly what is keeping us from Him and as such, puts us in a position to choose loss. Often that which we hold dear stops us from apprehending Christ in His fullness. Even outward obedience and following rules to the letter do not allow us to gain Christ. No, we must lose!

Another example that comes to mind is Paul when he addresses the Philippian Church:

… circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 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 loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ… (Philippians 3:6-9)

Paul had everything perfectly in order in terms of being a religious Jew. He was blameless and zealous. But in His encounter with the Lord, He was required to lay it all down. He lost it all to know Christ! He considered all he had, in terms of reputation and zeal, utter rubbish compared to having Christ. His path was that of loss… in order that he may obtain Christ!

In the same letter Paul says to the Church:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)

Wow, how contrary to modern society where we are all striving to be the best and win. Paul’s words to the church have huge implications in terms of following Christ and being part of Church life. By seeing others as better than ourselves, we are forced to lose. Pride, reputation, and climbing ladders are buried and replaced by lowliness, brotherly-love, and humility. Church life thrives and grows in the midst of self-loss.

Finally, the ultimate example of loss is found in Christ Himself. Falsely accused by His fellow countrymen, He was brought before Pontius Pilate, a gentile. He was questioned and interrogated but remained silent. He was beaten, stripped naked, shamed, and nailed to a cross. He willingly lost all reputation and suffered loss in the form of death on a cross. But through the loss He gained so much more… (Topic for another post).

Let me remind you.. in God’s economy loss is essential in order to gain anything worth gaining. Are you willing to lose or suffer loss in order to gain Christ?

I hope this post has broadened your perspective and that you now have an appreciation for losing (haha). Finally, brothers and sisters, may we learn to lose and suffer loss in a world that values winning and increase. May we be willing to lose all that we have and hold dear to gain Christ and His riches!

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About the author

Nathan Odell Nathan Odell is the author of Joined to Him. You can connect with him on

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  1. Brock Fletcher says:

    Thank you for this post. This subject has been churning within my heart for sometime now. I, like a lot of others, have been trained to be competitive and ‘win’ at life. Be better at sports, better at work, bigger house, better car…just beat the next guy.

    I always carried this over to my religious walk (to my detriment), and when I came into a true relationship with Jesus, His grace and love literally melted that off of me. Needless to say, it shook me up and I’ve had to learn to walk in the rest and peace of the Lord as opposed to ‘winning’ at life. I feel like I’ve been removed from a system and have been set free!

    Thanks again my brother.

  2. Hi Nathan,

    Just been reading through Philippians 2 in my private prayers, and was impressed by the very things mentioned above. True to the Scriptures and true to life. But with it all comes the joy of the Lord! Thanks for your encouraging post as always.

    Grace and peace…

  3. so true. my children have been teaching me this recently. I think I’m finally starting to understand it a little.

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