Sixty-eight teams made the NCAA college basketball tournament.  But sixty-seven will end their season with a loss.  What do we do when we’ve lost?



He had the greatest season that any quarterback has ever had in the history of the National Football League.  He broke the single season passing records with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards.  But he lost the Super Bowl.  So, what is Payton Manning supposed to do now?


They made it to three straight Conference Championship games.  Coach Jim Harbaugh is the first coach to ever lead a team to that kind of success in his first three seasons at the helm.  But they have no Super Bowl championships for those three years of work.  So, what are the 49ers supposed to do now?


Enough of the sports illustrations.  Let’s talk about…the Olympics.  The U.S. men’s hockey team came in fourth.  The Russian team did even worse—and they are all missing!  (Actually they’ve been found on the front lines in Ukraine!)  The women’s hockey team blew a seemingly insurmountable late lead and lost to the Canadians.  What are these people who lost supposed to do now?


He had the top rated late-night talk show on television.  But he lost it, twice!  What is Jay Leno supposed to do now?


It may have been the best performance of his life.  Some say he should have won for “Titanic” and “Blood Diamond” but surely his “Wolf of Wall Street” portrayal would win Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar this time.  But he lost, what is he supposed to do now?


What do we do when we’ve lost? 


Wilma Rudolph said, “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time.”


What do we do when we’ve lost?  After all, we’ve all lost?  We’ve lost games, we’ve lost bets, we’ve lost arguments, but more significantly, we’ve lost friends, we’ve lost opportunities, we’ve lost loved ones.  We’ve lost key people who have moved away from our church or worse yet, left our church to go somewhere else in town!  We’ve lost jobs.


I just got this email from a friend:   “Hey JD-- I Got the bad news from (the church that was looking at me as Senior Pastor)…and I’m feeling a bit vexed:  Several times now…in sight of finish line…only to miss the final cut…frustrating!


What do we do when we’ve lost?


A while back our church lost—land, a lot of money and a lawsuit.  We had a million dollar judgment against us.  Ever been upside down on a loan by a million dollars? 


We lost.  So what do you do when you’ve lost?


The good news is the Bible reminds us over and over again what to do when we’ve lost, because the Bible is a group of stories about loss.  It could be said to be a story about losers.  Adam and Eve lost their perfection, their innocence and their home.  Abraham and Sarah lost their hope.  Joseph lost his dream.  David lost his purity.  Jeremiah lost his homeland.  Hosea lost his wife.  Peter lost his courage.  Jesus lost his life…


Let’s look at two verses where the Apostle Paul lost:


Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)


Ironically that’s kind of an encouraging verse, because I’ve never lost that bad.  Paul suffered a pretty resounding defeat.  He was pummeled by rocks, dragged out of the city and left for dead.

A bank sued us and it seemed that what they really wanted was to put us out of business.  But Paul was left for dead.


Maybe you’ve felt like a loser left for dead.  What do you do?


Look what Paul did.


But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)


1.  Get up. 


He got up…—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)

After the loss, Paul got up.


One of my favorite stories about the apostle Paul is from Acts 28.  We read this about Paul after a shipwreck:


Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.  The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.  Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.  When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.”  But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.  The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

Get over it then get on with it.—Acts 28:1-5 (NLT)


Paul was snake-bit!  But he shook it off.  He got back up.


When we suffer a loss, we need to get back up.  We need to shake it off.


Bill Vaughn advises, “In the game of life, it's a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.”


Don’t be surprised if and when you lose.  Expect it, and get back up.


2.  Get back in the game


He got up and went back into the city…—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)


After a loss, Paul got back up, and went back into the city—the very same city he’d just been dragged out of.  But he went back into the game. 


When I was playing football in high school--I was an outside linebacker—during one memorable play our middle linebacker hit the opponent’s running back and jarred the ball loose.  I recovered the fumble.  In the mad scramble for the ball I got kneed, kicked, punched or kicked in a very sensitive spot.  I held on to the ball, but limped off the field and knelt down to recover.  But our quarterback threw an interception on the very next play.  Players and coaches were shouting, “First team defense, get in there!”  But I was hurting.  My linebacker coach came up to me and asked what my problem was.  I can’t tell you about the entire conversation, but he did say something I’ll never forget:  “I don’t care where you got hit, get back in the game!”  I got back in the game.


Paul got back in the game. 


3.  Get over it


The next day….—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)


Paul was over it by the next day.  Now I realize we all grieve to different timetables.  But if someone leaves the church, if someone hurts you, if someone messes up, cry that night but be ready the next day.


“A hero has faced it all: he need not be undefeated, but he must be undaunted.”--Andrew Bernstein


4.  Get on with my next step.


The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)


The next day Paul was on to the next thing, the next assignment, the next step, the next play.


Several years ago I was in a bookstore.  Remember those?  I started flipping through a book by Rick Pitino, the basketball coach.  I’m not sure what the book was called, and I didn’t buy it.  But as I flipped through the pages I came to a chapter called, “Next Play.”  I read that chapter standing in the bookstore.  He said, the most important thing is the next play.  When the referee makes a bad call he wants his players to think, “Next play.”  When you miss a shot, think, “Next play.”  When you commit a turnover, “Next play.”  When your guy scores on you, “Next play.”  When you mess up, “Next play.”  Even when you do something great, think, “Next play.”  When you lose the game, think, “Next play, next game.”


Paul thought, “Next play, next game, next move, next step.”


What is your next step?


Proverbs 3:5-6 is a famous passage.  But I read it in the New Living Translation recently:


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.—Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)


God will show you which path to take.  God will show us what step to take.  After a loss, we need to trust God to show us our next step.


One last thing Paul did after a loss:


4.  Get good people around me


But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.—Acts 14:19-20 (NIV)


The disciples gathered around him.  I like how the Phillips version translates this:


But while the disciples were gathered in a circle round him, Paul got up and walked back to the city.--Acts 14:20 (Phillips)


When Paul was beaten and stoned and dragged off and left for dead, an interesting thing happened--his friends gathered around him.  Maybe they were just planning for the funeral.  But they were there.


We need good people around us.  Isn’t that what being part of a network is all about?  Sure it’s fun to celebrate the wins, but we also need people around us who will help us up when we lose.


Get those good people around you, get involved in a cluster, get a coach, get some folks to circle around you.


Here’s the rest of Wilma Rudolph’s quote:  “If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”


When our church was in the middle of a lawsuit, our wise lawyer said something over and over again, “Don’t worry.  There’s life after losses.”  He is right.  Let’s get up, get back in the game, get over it, get on with it and get some good people around us.  Maybe we’ve lost, but there’s a win right around the corner.