Yes, I watched every one of the Lions’ playoff games – almost every minute of every game.  It felt really good to beat Matthew Stafford (whom I still like) and the Rams.  And then it felt even better to win again the next week.  Wow – those crowds at Ford Field really rocked!  As we approached the NFC championship game I had two thoughts.  The first was “Amazing – we are in the same conversation as the Chiefs, the Ravens, and the 49ers!  This is impressive company.”  The other was that if we had lost to Tampa Bay the disappointment would have been nearly intolerable.
 
Then came the first half of our game in San Francisco.  It was unbelievable – scary good!  But, if my memory serves me correctly, the Lions have struggled in the third quarter many times this season.  So, I expected some initial adversity.  What I saw was certainly, though, much worse than I expected.  And, as the final minutes ticked away, my body slumped in disappointment.  Tired, but not sleepy, I stayed up to watch the local postgame coverage … much more interested to see the reaction of our team than the celebration on the other side of the field.  And yes, when the Super Bowl airs, I will be rooting for the 49ers all the way.
 
How grand it would have been for Detroit to have a team in the Super Bowl.  How grand it was to have the season they did.  And now with our Offensive Coordinator sticking around, I am already starting to get excited about next season.  Yes, it was a very tough loss, but I am not going to let it ruin the joy the team provided me over the past months, nor let it dampen my enthusiasm for the future.
 
And, of course, life goes on.  The Red Wings are well positioned to make the playoffs.  The Tigers have signed their second baseman of the future (hopefully) to a long-term contract, and the Pistons are on a one-game winning streak for the 6th time this season.
 
So much for sports, for life goes on in many other ways as well.  Today I am at an all-day training event for the District position (Circuit Visitor) that I have been serving in for about a year and a half.  Tomorrow I will be with two separate grieving families, one in the morning and one in the afternoon … and if you want to talk about tough losses, neither of these deaths were expected and one of the individuals was only 32 years old.  Then on Sunday I will be assisting a congregation that has gone from worshipping 500 to 30, and is wondering how to plan for the future.
 
Of course, every time a little lamb gets lost … every time someone dies without the Gospel of Jesus in their heart … it is a very tough loss for Jesus and our heavenly Father.  How do I know this?  Jesus himself tells us first, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19.10) and then, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6.39-40)
 
Do you remember the parable of the Lost Sheep told by Jesus?  You can find it in Luke 15.1-7.  The last line is very important.  “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15.7)  If there is that much joy when one comes to faith, just imagine the disappointment over those who do not … in other words, each one is a tough loss for Jesus.

And a tough loss for Jesus is a tough loss for all of us who are members of the body of Christ.  Listen to how passionate St. Paul was about sharing the message of the Gospel with the lost world:  “If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself.  I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t!  If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay.  But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid?  So, am I getting anything out of it?  Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. … I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. … I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.  I did all this because of the Message.  I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (1 Corinthians 9.16-23) Oh, that we all had the passion of St. Paul.
 
We live in a loss-filled world.  Each year only one team wins the Super Bowl and the World Series.  Only one college or high school team wins the championship in each division.  Everyone else in contention ends their season with a tough loss!  But the toughest loss of all is the one Christ willingly suffered that we might come out winners – how wonderful is that!  Here is Paul’s reaction: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3.8-11) Again, oh that we had as much passion in this regard as we tend to have for our sports teams …

Life IS good in Christ … even when the Lions lose!

Tough Loss