Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?

by Dustin on November 8, 2013


I’ve often heard people explain their motivation for Christian missions work as: to keep other people from going to hell. This kind of motivation has always rubbed me the wrong way, but I could never articulate why… until now.

When we are so loud about what we’re against, what we are for gets lost in the noise.

Instead of being so against abortion, perhaps we should be investing in better parenting, adoption, and foster care. Instead of being so anti-divorce, maybe it would be more effective to invest in restoring and protecting marriages. Instead of being so bent on keeping people out of hell, we should be investing in bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven. What is more important to you: Keeping people out of hell or bringing them into the Kingdom of God?

The distinction is quite fine, but make no mistake, it’s important.

Jesus was passionate about the profound impact the Kingdom has on people’s life. He wasn’t just talking about something that was to come, someday, after death, eventually. He was talking about abundant life right now. Not necessarily abundant financially, relationally, or even spiritually. He was talking about abundance in Him, which we can’t define with our words, but with our lives and actions. When we focus on keeping people out of hell we trade the heart-level abundance Jesus was all about for a form of fire insurance.

Being in the Kingdom of God means marriages improve, kids are raised right, churches are healthy, and communities are transformed. Simply staying out of hell really doesn’t mean anything to us right now and we can’t help but notice how little guilt and fear has motivated people to live for God. When we live our lives in such a way that it shows the Kingdom of God is at hand, the earth becomes a lot more heavenly (hey that sounds familiar).

Bottom line: the purpose of being a Christian is not to keep people out of hell and it would behoove all of us Christians to stop acting/talking like it.

Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose? So often in this life we are playing not to lose at the cost of a true relationship with God. Another way to say it: Instead of focusing on what you are not, focus on what you are. You can’t base anything lasting on what you are not or what you are against.

So, what are you for? Nothing else really matters. Leave a comment explaining what you are for. What excites you about the Kingdom? What are the most beautiful promises of God? People are missing abundant life in God because we aren’t talking about it or living it out. So let’s start now: what is the Kingdom of Heaven like to you?

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– Dustin Patrick |  1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador

Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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  • Tim

    Exactly right. I read a post once in which the blogger argued that since babies go to heaven, abortion wasn’t that big a deal. What a gross misunderstanding of… life! Not just theology. He needs to go back to Genesis 1 and look at God’s delight in all He created.
    I’ve met people here online who do exemplify the Kingdom of God beautifully: an Oklahoma family that adopted nine kids out of foster care (in spite of the mom suffering horribly from Crohn’s); a retired French man who posts about his family celebrations and his garden; young mothers who raise their children in joyfully creative and secure homes; a Pennsylvania Mennonite lady who helps her husband run a greenhouse, is perhaps the best aunt in the world, incredibly creative with photography and crafts. They’ve had an enormous impact on the online community and their neighbors.

  • This is a fabulous post, Dustin! And so pertinent to people who might be assumed to come in with the sole purpose of negating culture and tradition. Instead of focus on rubbing out all the “badness” it is vital that we come in and invite people to be authentic expressions of the Kingdom of God. Excellent article. Thanks for writing it.

  • Adele Booysen

    I couldn’t agree more, Dustin. I believe much of the problem with Christianity is that many, many Christians themselves don’t understand the critical importance of our identity change. It changes everything! But when you simply become a Christian/go to church to avoid going to hell, you miss the entire point! Then your faith doesn’t have to have an impact on your life–your work, your family, your community. You can gossip at work, cheat on your spouse, have no love for your neighbor. Which happens. But when you get that being born again means that you are a citizen of a different Kingdom, and the values of that Kingdom should permeate your life. Then it matters not whether you’re a mechanic or a “missionary,” ’cause all of life is done on a mission–inviting people into the fulness & meaningfulness of a life in the Kingdom. All the best in the work you do!!

  • Richelle Wright

    Amen! I totally agree. And you’ve totally nailed more eloquently than I my motivation for what I hope God accomplishes through my life.

    It is wild, though. When I talk to young adults or my own teens and their friends – focusing on all the positive things they want to be known for is so key. They don’t want to be known as the have-nots-could-nots-would-nots-should-nots continually preaching a message of salvation from damnation responsible for rescuing the rest of the world. They want to help change the world and make it a better place. They want to point the world to Jesus and live out their faith and hope. When I talk to my parents and their friends… my grandparents… those on the missions committees in our partnering churches… or the dear older ladies in the Bible study I attend as my life permits, their motivation IS rescue and deliverance (I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard the illustration of swimming upstream and pulling a drowning victim from raging water) and it is sincere and it is their desire to be like Jesus.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is play to win, yes! But I’m also recognizing that perhaps we are at this place and the point where that can be my focus is because others played not to lose… and wondering how to take the two ends of those ropes and weave them together so that there is true unity…???

  • 7bill_lee7

    It’s quite possible, with global culture skipping across vast amounts of data, media and circumstances that Christians can barely get beyond first base…blurting out a reactionary reason for their faith such as “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” That negative mindset, although quite true doesn’t attract hedonists. To the contrary, their one-upmanship phrase as you know would be something like…I’d rather be in hell with all my friends than with you! Dustin has hit the nail on the head. It calls believers like me to invest inordinate amounts of time showing how God comes through when we are at a loss. Basically obedience for the mature as a loving sacrifice to the Timothys who want the more without the discipline.

  • cindyfinley

    Yes! I’ve always believed it’s better to spread a banquet feast and invite people to taste and see that the Lord is good than to offer them fire insurance.

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