Praising God After Losing

Last Saturday, kicker Cody Parkey walked up to the 26 yard line with ten seconds left on the clock. The Philadelphia Eagles led the Chicago Bears by one point, and the game was almost over. It was up to him to win it. Make it, and the Bears would advance to the next round in the NFL playoffs. Miss it, and he would earn the hatred of an entire city. Cody Parkey lined up and sent the football towards the uprights.

... and missed. The ball sailed towards the end zone, bounced off the left upright, and then bounced again off the bottom crossbar. A “double-doink.”

Imagine your entire company going bankrupt because you forgot to answer an email. Imagine the likelihood of losing your job because you didn’t make a sale. That’s the horror facing Cody Parkey. Wins and losses impact lives in the NFL, and Parkey just put everyone else and their families at risk because of his failure.

But after missing the kick, Parkey did something remarkable. He took his hands and pointed both fingers to God in the sky, all on national television.

It’s common for athletes to praise God during success. All across professional sports, stars point to the sky after making a basket or running across the finish line. Athletes make whole careers on their ability to talk about God during good times. But rarely, if ever, does an athlete praise God after a defeat—especially one as devastating as the one Parkey endured.

Parkey felt humiliation, loss, and discouragement, but praised God anyway. It was a simple gesture, so small that most watching on TV missed it. After the game Parkey reiterated his desire to honor God with his losses and not just his wins.

It‘s easy to talk about God‘s goodness on social media after buying a house or getting a new job. It‘s harder to do after suffering a miscarriage, or going through a divorce, or starting chemotherapy. Life doesn’t always feel like a victory. Most of the time life feels like a missed kick.

But God deserves our praise because of what He can do, not because of what we can do. In a world where people measure each other according to wins and losses, God measures us according to the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross. People judge others according to what they can accomplish. God judges us based on what He can accomplish. Perhaps no one communicated this better than Paul in his letter to the Christians in Philippi.

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13

Most people hear that verse after the Super Bowl or during the Olympics. Paul wrote it while in jail. He was hungry, alone, and weak. Yet, Paul understood a vital truth. It did not matter what he could do because of God, it mattered what he could endure because of Him. Paul could handle the hunger. He could suffer the isolation. God was still good.

No home run or buzzer beater could ever truly glorify God. No amount of trophies or rings could adequately praise His name. But the quiet strength found of the man in the arena—whose heart is marred by suffering, loss, and defeat—who comes up short again and again—but who knows the power of trusting in a totally powerful God in a totally helpless moment—that makes God look good.

God desires a relationship so much greater than serving as a wingman to our own successes. God doesn’t want our victories. He wants us. He wants praise in the good times, and trust in the bad. He wants the heart that points to him in the darkest chapters of each and every story. He does not want the famous, or the victorious, or the successful. He wants the faithful, and the faithful alone. The world thought Cody Parkey missed last Saturday. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Resting in Him,

Pastor Stephen


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