Tag Archives: Super Bowl

Surprised by Joy: The Joyous Defeat

by Michael Gallup

There are few things harder than to preach the funeral of a convicted murder who committed suicide. Not just that he was a criminal but that he was a father of an eight-year-old boy I befriended. This young boy with his father in prison latched on to me at camp and I began to find myself filling some of the hole left by an absent dad. I saw the boy come to follow Jesus. He was so full of life despite his difficult circumstances.

But then I received a phone call I will never forget. It was his mom telling me the horrible news and asking me to preach the funeral of a man I never met. There have been few times in my life when I have cried harder than that evening. Not so much over the loss of the man’s life, although tragic, but for the intense suffering my young friend was now in the midst of. I began to become angry and angry at the only one who could handle such rage, God. Hadn’t the boy had enough? Why does he have to suffer so much? Why does one so young have to face such harsh realities? Why, God, why?

While I will never pretend to know the full answer of those questions, God has shown me a part of the why. For joy. It seems ludicrous to insist that joy could possibly come out of such pain, but I am coming to believe that it may be ludicrous to think that joy could come out of anything but pain. One of the most perplexing pieces of scripture is James1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds.” We are to somehow find joy in our suffering? Because it leads to perseverance? Yes, God says.

As I have asked God hard questions, He has kindly revealed to me some answers. Last week I described how He showed me what joy wasn’t: happiness. And I am beginning to see why. Happiness is the product of pleasure. When something happens to us that is pleasant we become happy. But now I am seeing that joy is the product of pain. And rightfully so, the process from pain to joy is much longer and arduous than the one from pleasure to happiness.

One of the biblical authors compares the life of a Christ-follower with that of an athlete, suffering the agony of preparing to run the race. This metaphor still rings true when we watch the Super Bowl winners crying tears of joy at the victory they achieved. And that joy is not birthed in the winning but in the months and years of hard work that led them to this moment, that made it even possible. In that passage in James, the reason to consider it joy to suffer is because our suffering is not the end of us and our stories but a catalyst for change. Our suffering refines us, pushing us forward in the race of redemption in the story of our ultimate victory.

This picture is most clearly seen in the death and thus victory of Jesus Christ. It was only through his defeat that the world could know victory. The biblical book Hebrews says that he was able to endure the sufferings of his murder because of the joy set before him. He knew his death, which at the moment it occurred seemed like the biggest train-wreck in history, was not the end of his story. He knew what only he could know, that his pain was giving birth to the joy of the world. That his defeat brought true victory.

Ultimately, it is a defeat we must each embrace because it is the only path to victory, the only path to joy. Our very lives are found in the death of ourselves.

But what about my young friend? That funeral was not the end of his story. Just as Jesus’ and our funerals are not the end of our stories. God began to redeem that situation that was never his will in the first place and in that redemption I saw that boy’s life changed. He learned to let go, if only a little, of his father and to find acceptance in a new father who was there, not in jail but with him, in a man who also knew defeat but also knew life in Jesus.

Our suffering is not the end of our stories but in some ways the beginning.

Michael is a student at Denver Seminary. This is part three of a four part series.


Filed under Uncategorized

Do You Play To Win Or To Not Lose?

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday!

For those of us who love American football, it’s a sad day because it concludes the 2009-2010 season. Although I’m not partial to either the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints, I would like to see a good game.

After watching professional football for 38 years, one factor determines which team eventually wins my loyalty (if the Denver Broncos aren’t playing): the team that plays to win rather than playing to not lose.

Let me explain: some teams play conservatively. They don’t take any risks. They avoid passing the ball (which leads to interceptions) and rely on a strong defense. The Baltimore Ravens relied on this approach in 2001 and b-o-r-e-d me death.

But other teams take risks. They pass the ball and take chances running trick plays in order to fool the opponent. Games like this are enjoyable to watch.

Believe it or not, God has a preferred style of football, too. And it translates into how he wants all of us to live.

Read about it in today’s reading.


Exodus 26:1-27:21
Matthew 25:1-30
Psalm 31:1-8
Proverbs 8:1-11


Exodus 26. The details about building the tabernacle may not seem relevant to you or me. I guess the upside of chapters like this is they allow you to catch up on some of your reading because it won’t take long to skim. Two thoughts come to mind regarding this chapter:

  1. The blue fabrics and gold rings were indicative of royalty; and
  2. The woven curtains separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the tabernacle were intended to communicate the separation between God and humanity. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The moment Jesus died on the cross, the curtain separating us from God was torn in two (see Matthew 27:51—which we’ll read in six days).

Exodus 27. The altar described at the beginning of the chapter was big: 8 feet wide and 5 tall. But it needed to be big because animals were going to be sacrificed on it. The courtyard was intended to prevent people from accidentally (or intentionally) entering God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.

Matthew 25:1-13. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “Weddings were held toward evening and torches were used as part of the celebration, which focused on a procession leading the bride to the groom’s house.” The last few days, we’ve discussed the importance of being prepared. This parable reiterates the point. Don’t wait to get it together, because if you do, it’ll be too late.

Psalm 31:5. Jesus quoted this psalm on the cross in Luke 23:46.

Proverbs 8:1-11. Scripture places a premium on wisdom. Our society on the other hand? Not so much. We value power, prestige, and stuff. But Solomon says we should choose wisdom over silver, gold, or rubies, which were precious metals and gems (and still are). The book of Proverbs is organized in such a way that we must read through 9 chapters of material about wisdom before reaching the pithy quotes that contain it.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 has always appealed to me. The passage has provided plenty of material for countless sermons and classes. Usually, I’ve driven home the same point: use whatever God has given you.

But now I’m beginning to question my understanding of the parable. While it’s important that we use what we have, I doubt that’s the central point Jesus was trying to make.

To review Jesus’ parable: Before going out of town on a long journey, a man meets with his three servants to give them parting instructions while he’s gone. Basically, he gives them different amounts of money and tells them to use it to build his wealth. When he returns, two of the servants report they doubled their master’s money. In return, they receive equal encouragement and increased responsibility. One servant, however, confesses that he hid the money in the ground. Furious, the master gave the third’s servant’s money to the first servant and kicked him out on the streets.

To bring this into context, this is one of a series of Jesus’ parables about the last days, addressing what we should do while we wait for Jesus to return.

Two of the servants risked their master’s money…and it multiplied. They played to win. The third servant, however, was afraid and hid his master’s talent in the ground. He played to not lose and ultimately, the third servant lost everything.

What speaks to me today in this passage is that God doesn’t want me to play safe. He wants me to use what I have and take risks for the kingdom of God. He wants me to risk conversations about spiritual things. He wants me to risk giving when it hurts. He wants me to risk…

Growing up, a conductor in one of my orchestras used to tell us, “Don’t play timidly. If you’re going to make a mistake, do it so big that everyone can hear it!”

When we make big mistakes like that, I think God smiles and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

This is how we live as we wait for Jesus to return.

Don’t play to not lose. Play to win.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What risks is God calling you to take? What prevents you from taking the risk?
  3. How do you live safe?
  4. Why do you think we place such low value on wisdom in our culture? Describe a time when wisdom–from you or someone else–made a difference in your life.

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


Filed under Uncategorized