Have you recently watched “The Biggest Loser” on TV, or another of those human makeover shows? A current edition features former star athletes who have “let themselves go” and are trying to regain their former svelte selves. From fit to fat – and back again?
Transformations taking place over the course of programs like these often are astounding. Sometimes clothes the participants wore in the opening episode would fit two of the persons surviving for the final show. Occasionally it’s hard to believe the overweight individual and the “made-over” version are the same person. They truly become shadows of their former selves.
Interestingly, “loser” more commonly is used as a derogatory term – whether in sports or everyday life. Competing in football, basketball, golf, soccer or some other sport, no one wants to be a loser. The same is true of being a member of a family or social group: “You’re a loser, you chump!” On these “Biggest Loser”-type programs, however, it’s a badge of honor to become the champion loser. This can be true in a spiritual sense as well.
The Bible asserts it’s actually a good thing to be a loser, as long as you’re losing the right things. For instance, in Matthew 10:39 Jesus talked about the importance of setting the right priorities: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
I imagine some of His hearers might have wondered, “What’s Jesus talking about, losing our life to find it?” Later He elaborated, perhaps to clarify what He’d said earlier: “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?” (Matthew 16:25-26).
Being inhabitants of a tangible, visible world, it’s easy for us to forget about unseen, intangible spiritual aspects of our lives. Out of sight, out of mind, right? In fact, the materialistic emphasis that begs for our attention every day can result in matters of faith becoming nothing more than add-ons, rather than central to our daily existence.
The life to which Christ calls His followers, however, isn’t one in which He serves as icing on the cake, an “add-on” to the things in this world we embrace so tightly. Instead, He desires to be the focal point of our lives. As the apostle Paul declared to curious Greek leaders and officials, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Jim Elliot, among five missionaries murdered while seeking to minister to the indigenous Huaorani people in Ecuador in 1956, made a similar statement about being willing to lose everything except what matters most: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
In Elliot’s case, his loss amounted to what we often term the “ultimate sacrifice.” But as he declared – and his widow, Elizabeth, affirmed in books following his death – being the “biggest loser” made him a true winner in God’s sight.
A particularly American trait is to compartmentalize our lives – our work, family, hobbies, spiritual pursuits. We carve our daily existence into neat slices, conveniently separated with little or no overlap. But when Jesus says we should “lose our life to find it,” He’s calling for us to let loose of everything that would detract from giving our full, undivided allegiance to Him.