Archive for May 15, 2017

No-Win Situations

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George Jones once sang a song called “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win.”  I imagine Jesus felt much the same way when He uttered one of the tersest parables of His ministry:

To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.” For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  (Luke 7:31-34)

It seems no matter what message the kingdom of God was offering, the people of Jesus’ day were determined to reject it.  When John came preaching a message of somber repentance from sins, the people thought him to be mad.  When Jesus came and welcomed sinners and preached to them the gospel of grace, the people thought Him to be licentious.  Sometimes, you just can’t win.

A while back, my son Hayden was a little under the weather.  He was also teething.  So when I held him, he cried  And when I put him down, he cried.  When I sat down with him, he cried.  And when I stood up with him, he cried.  At that time, I just couldn’t win.

I have been a pastor long enough to watch quite a few people put themselves in what I call “no-win situations.”  Sometimes it’s a financial no-win situation.  “There is no way I have enough money to live on!” a person will say.  Sometimes it’s a relational no-win situation.  “There is no way I can ever forgive this person for what they have done to me!” another person will say.  And when I suggest some ways that someone can, in fact, navigate toward a winning solution, I will hear a whole litany of why there is no way to fix the problem.  Sometimes, a person just won’t let himself win.

When Jesus invites us to Himself, He invites out of the no-win situations of our sin and into the comforts, promises, and delights of His grace.  Like John the Baptist came before Jesus, there is an element of repentance that comes before forgiveness – sorrow that comes before joy.  But whether it is in dirge or in dance, we are invited out of our sin and into Christ’s arms.  The question is:  will we be like the people of Jesus’ generation, refusing both to participate in repentance and to receive God’s forgiveness?

The apostle Paul writes that his desire is to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).  Paul has a desire to win what matters most.  But he also knows that his win will come not by his effort, but by his loss:

Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  (Philippians 3:7-9)

Paul’s win is the righteousness of Christ that leads to everlasting life.  This is the win to which Jesus invited the people of His day in Luke 7.  And this is still the win to which Jesus invites us.  And there’s no win that’s better than this win.

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May 15, 2017 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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