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The other day, my husband Tim and our four-year-old, Ben were working a puzzle together, and Benjamin was saying that he is the best puzzle worker, even better than Daddy.  I was half-listening as I worked in the kitchen and I said,“Oh I think Daddy is a really good puzzle worker, too.”

And he said, “Yeah, me and Daddy are the best puzzle workers, better than you and Abby.” So I stopped and asked, “Why do you have to be better than someone? Why can’t you just be good?

I looked at Tim, “Is this guy thing?” And he said, “Yes. Yes it is. Because we don’t want to just be good; we want to win.”

How do we win at life?  In Matt. 16:24-27, Jesus tells his closest friends the secret.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

Winning in the kingdom of Christ is all about dying and losing.  But it’s not the kind of death that creates vacuous emptiness and pain. Rather, it’s seed-death, the shell cracked and emptied to allow something new and beautiful and nourishing to spring forth.

In his sermon, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper says, “We have to make radical choices about where our treasure is.  Powerful forces are at work angling to get you to waste your life. It will take a massive work of grace to rescue you from this culture, and many of you are totally enslaved.”

He specifically addresses his generation, approaching retirement: “Billions of dollars are invested every year to persuade people my age (60’s) to waste the rest of our lives. We’re told ‘You’ve worked for it, now enjoy it.’  So people in their retirement years are spending 20 years of play, leisure, and ease while the world: illiterate, poor, without clean water, unevangelized sinks under the weight of people playing bridge, fishing, collecting shells, and golfing their way into the presence of King Jesus (quote is abridged).

C.S. Lewis wrote, “You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey, even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind” (The Great Divorce, preface).

Understanding what it takes to win helps me to avoid wasting my life. And I could do it, so easily, worrying about so many things that don’t matter, bogged down by the cares of the world, and failing to trust God and His plans for my life. But I don’t want to waste it, not a day.  I don’t want to enter the presence of King Jesus with nothing to show but a shell collection of all my own cares and concerns.

Lord Jesus help us to see the bigger picture. Teach us the painful process of death so that we may live the life that is truly life.