Have you ever attended a sporting event and cheered over a mistake made by the opposing team? We all have. Whether in athletics, academics, business, or ministry, competition brings out the best and, sometimes, the worst in us. The higher the stakes, the more likely we are to cheer when our opponent falters. Solomon taught a different way: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (Proverbs 24:17-18).
When we have given much of our lives to accomplish a goal of winning, we become vulnerable to celebrating our competitor’s demise. We can click on the television, tune in to any sports broadcast, and immediately find fans who are basically cheering, “Hooray for the other team’s misfortune!” The irony is this does not happen solely in sports. It repeats itself in everyday life because, as fallen creatures, we want to be right, tops, first, and best, since we constantly compare and label.
In order to change, we must recognize two things about competition. First, we actually need our opponent to improve our skills. Compete comes from the Latin, com, meaning, “together,” and petere, meaning, “to strive.” Thus, competition truly means that we strive together to maximize our potential. Every athlete, student, business person, and minister needs competition to grow. Second, God keeps score differently. He uses each situation to shape us to be more like Christ (see Romans 8:29). That means win, lose, or draw, by the world’s standards, we can achieve God’s definition of success. When we define winning as becoming more like Jesus, He radically changes our perspective of competition.
Have you been secretly or openly cheering for your competitor’s loss? Hand it over to God who has plenty of resources to go around. His most valuable is His passion to shape your heart with the handprints of Jesus Christ. The King of all kings desires that your choices would be wise. He wants your thoughts to be noble. He eagerly awaits your prayers for transformation. He longs for your emotions to break for the lost and hurting around you, even those who are opposed to you. Beg God for a heart like His and pray for your competition to be redeemed as a Kingdom-altering event to draw you and your opponent closer to Christ.