The players of winning teams are the objects of pictures and articles, while the players on losing teams are seldom noticed. Everyone likes a winner. We like winners not only in sports, but in most every area.
his dominion is an everlasting dominion
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
The Book of Daniel was written in a time of hopelessness, directed to a people who had been defeated in war and exiled from their homeland. As realistic as Daniel is, this book is not one of doom and gloom. It is a paean of hope. Daniel was born some six hundred years before the time of Christ. All around the little land of Palestine great world powers, with armies, weapons, and aggressive dreams, marched across the earth and continually threatened every nation.
Nebuchadnezzar became the king of Babylon and overthrew the Assyrian empire. Then he marched on Jerusalem. The Babylonians defeated the Hebrews as they defeated the Egyptians in 605 BC. Daniel was one of those taken captive to Babylon. In that foreign capital, the man of God became a government servant for his captors, and a prophet for his own people.
If there ever was a time and a circumstance that should have defeated the hopes and dreams of a people, it was the time of Daniel. Yet, the message of Daniel is a word of hope, a word of encouragement, a dream of a winning future. Daniel saw that the Time of the Gentiles was not permanent. Although the Hebrews would be dominated for years by foreign powers, Daniel had faith that God would at some future time establish a new everlasting kingdom.
For Daniel, the God who directs the forces of history had not deserted His people.
What a word of hope for us! Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that ancient dream. His kingdom shall prevail! The community of those who trust in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ shall not be destroyed, and it shall not pass away.
In every age there are two different views of life’s circumstances. One is summed up in a story about a man and his dog walking on the beach when they came upon a stranger. The dog’s owner was so proud of his dog’s abilities that he asked the stranger to watch some tricks. The owner throws a piece of driftwood into the surf. The dog runs to the edge of the water, hesitates for a moment, and then walks on the water to the floating wood and brings it back to shore. The visitor just shakes his head in disbelief. The owner does it again, and the stranger doesn’t comment. The owner asks him, “Didn’t you notice anything unusual?” The stranger replies, “Sure, your dog can’t swim, can he?”
The other view is related in a story told by Robert Raines. One autumn, Robert Raines’ ten-year-old son made the all-star team in the Pop Warner football league. One night, putting his son to bed, Robert began to rub the boy’s back. The ten-year-old spoke, “Dad, is this the first time you have ever rubbed an all-star’s back?” Robert, with a lump in his throat, replied, “Yes, Rob, the first time … ever.”
There are some people who only see the disasters in life, only the destruction, only the doom. Their lives are surrounded by clouds so thick that nothing ever greens. On the other hand, there are people who always see the glory, the wonder, the marvel of the future. Those folks, like the ten-year-old Rob, have a father who has the power and the love to help in every situation.
When we follow the winner, we discover a new attitude about ourselves. How tempted you and I are to put ourselves down. How tempted you and I are to know that our efforts will surely fail. How tempted you and I are to see the future in terms of defeat. But those who are a part of the Kingdom of that God who cannot and will not be destroyed have a support in times of weakness that makes them strong. They have a ray of light in the darkness of their days that makes them into dreamers.
When we follow the winner, we have a new attitude toward other persons and toward the world in which we live. If we wish, we can always find something wrong with persons. If we wish, we can always find something wrong with our world.
I have a friend who is a commercial airline pilot. He has flown for many years. He once told me that he had never flown a plane about which he was not able to find something wrong. If he waited for the perfect plane to come along, he would never get in the air. I know that’s not very comforting when we start up the boarding ramp, but it is a fact of life. We can always find enough wrong with our world, with our circumstances, with other persons, even with ourselves, to give up and walk away from our troubled and defeated future.
When we follow the winner, we have a new attitude about the Church of Jesus Christ. I am sometimes discouraged that so many of our churches are losing membership. It is a dismal realization to know that my denomination, The United Methodist Church, has consistently lost membership for more than twenty years. In this county, there was a 20 percent increase in population during the 1960s. There was a 20 percent increase during the 1970s. Today there are fewer members in our Methodist churches than there were in 1960.
Then I read those words of Elton Trueblood, written in 1961, in his book The Company of the Committed, where he compares the church to the army of God. He notes how similar the early church was to a military company. He stresses that the church in our century is as different from an army as anything we can imagine. We like freedom, rather than discipline. We come when we wish, as no soldier could do. We serve when we get around to it, as no soldier could do. Trueblood ends with the words, “The military metaphor seems strained when it is applied to smartly dressed men and women riding in air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned churches.”
People follow the winners. You and I like to go with the winner, don’t we? And, when we go with the ultimate winner, we find a church with a whole new future ahead of it. We become people of hope who offer hope to the world. We can offer hope because we know that our Lord has a kingdom that shall never pass away, that will never be destroyed.
Can’t we believe, truly believe, that Christ is a winner? He was a winner over the powers of evil. He was a winner over the agony of suffering. He was a winner over the darkness of death. He was a winner over the calloused hearts of persons. He was a winner, and He is still a winner. Don’t all of us like to follow the winner?
The poet, Ellen Fox of Portland, Oregon, said it well:
Here’s to the lonely people,
The losers in life’s big race,
Shoved aside by the winners
Vying for second place.
Struggling to keep on going
Though not always knowing why
Holding their heads up proudly
Trying hard not to cry,
Christ was the King of Losers
The game was “Winner Take All,”
Only time would show the world
Just how wrong was the call.
Daniel’s faith led to hope. Daniel’s realization that God’s dream would prevail led him and the people of his day to persevere. Daniel’s assurance that God would be the final winner made Daniel a winner also. Surely, such faith, such a realization, such assurance, will do the same for us.