The modern Olympic Games have captivated the attention of the world for well over 100 years. Yet, I still marvel at how such a feat is accomplished in pulling 207 nations together for one primary purpose in one location for 19 days. For our children, this year’s Olympic games have truly been fascinating as neither of them recalls much from the last set of summer games four years ago. As with most girls, the swimming and gymnastics competitions have been of particular interest. As the swimmers get set for each heat of competition, our 11-and 6-year-old daughters are on the edge of their seats, making sure they’ve been able to spot all of the American flags digitally floating in their perspective lanes. The beeper that signals for the race to begin sends a wave of energy throughout the pool, the Olympian arena stands,…and our living room. “Go! Go! Go!” “We’re ahead!” “WE are winning!” And then finally, “WE won!”
None of us did so much as stick our big toe in that water. The Tomlins are over 5,000 miles from Rio. None of our family members have taken on the monstrous task of training for anything quite so prolific. But in that moment of glory, we, as American citizens, count ourselves as members of Team USA. They represent us. They won. So therefore, we won. Makes sense, right?
They represent us. They won. So therefore, we won.
The apostle Paul wrote from a Roman prison cell to the church at Ephesus, pouring his heart out on parchment in deep prayer and evaluation. (Wouldn’t you pray deeply and evaluate strategically from a dungeon prison cell?) The overall scope of his letter was less specific than others he had written and most likely was meant to be circulated among the various churches within the area. As Biblical scholar, Dr. Wesley Adams, writes, “Paul prayerfully longs for his readers to advance in faith, love, wisdom, and revelation of the Father in glory. He earnestly desires that they live lives worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, therefore, seeks to strengthen their faith and spiritual foundations by revealing the fullness of God’s eternal purpose of redemption.”◊
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. [Eph 4:1-6]
I’m continually baffled at the measure of competition that takes place within the Body of Christ at large. I can only attribute pride to be the king pen of our foundation when we can’t rejoice in another’s victory. Throughout even my ministry to ministry wives, I’ve heard women say, “I’d love to join in but I heard that Sis. So-and-So will be there. And there’s been quite a rift between our churches for awhile. I don’t want it to be awkward.” Often pastors and parishioners alike find it difficult to rejoice in the soul-winning success of another church or ministry. Evangelists can become jealous of the “level of bookings” or return invitations that one minister receives. Pastors compare attendance numbers, glossy promotional materials, events, websites, and social media posts. Lay leaders battle against another to garner greater participation or dominate the volunteer pool.
All the while, we as believers step over the primary purpose of this calling to stroke our own egos: that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ [Eph 4:12b-13]. Paul elaborates in chapter four of Ephesians to highlight the infantile resemblance of such lack of unity, citing that it is God who gives the job assignments [vs 11] for training the ministry team within ONE BODY.
Who is the ministry team of God?
The ministry team of God does not simply consist of the Reverends, the mega-church (which did not exist quite yet in the days of these writings, by the way), the world-renowned Evangelistic Association, or the national leader of a religious organization. The ministry team of God consists of God’s people.
16 from [God], whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
As if this weren’t enough to convict the believers at large, Paul goes on, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to instruct in chapter four, verse 29 through chapter five, verse two:
29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. 1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
What is this game of life all about for the believer?
I may not work in your local church or serve on your mission field, but when the Cause of Christ is accomplished, WE win! When you rejoice over the winning of souls, TEAM GOD wins! The glory doesn’t belong to you or your organization. The glory doesn’t belong to me. The glory belongs to the One who fought the real battle and triumphed so that we could wear the crown of grace and victory. For we were once in darkness ourselves, but now are the light in the Lord [Eph 5:8]. Rather than accuse or speak ill of one another’s calling or methods or triumphs, let us promote unity and submit to one another out of reverence of Christ [Eph 5:21]. Promote His Cause with sound doctrine, passionate purpose, and an Olympian’s focus and determination, that we may all win the prize for which we have run!
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. [Eph 6:10-13]
Winning with YOU,
◊Adams, J. Wesley, Ph. D. “Introduction to Ephesians.” Ephesians, 1992, pp. 1820-1821. The Full Life Study Bible: With the New International Version, general editor, Donald G. Stamps, Zondervan, 1992.