Medieval armor on display in the White Tower of the Tower of London, London, England

Grammar that can change your perspective on winning

I don’t really follow popular culture very much, not in comparison to others. There are niche genres in pop culture that I enjoy, but as a rule I don’t spend much time immersed in it. I just don’t see much use for so-called reality television, talk shows, or sitcom rehashes. But every now and then, something from that world crosses over to the news world and can’t be ignored no matter how hard you try. And that happened with Charlie Sheen some time back.

Honestly, I didn’t follow any of it. I couldn’t even tell you what happened. I just know he made somebody mad and they fired him and he spent an inordinate amount of time saying some pretty mean things. Apparently. But one phrase he continually used really took pop culture by storm and before anybody really thought about it, there were t-shirts and flair and bumper stickers with his face and the phrase in capital letters, “Winning.”

From what I understand, it was a phrase he started using to emphasize that even thought studio executives and his own family were trying to keep him down, he kept succeeding, which meant he could misbehave more. Or something to that extent. I don’t know. All I really know is that he’s not in the media anymore, and I’m glad about it.

But what does it really mean to win? To triumph? To have victory? There are a lot of things in my life I want victory over. There are a lot of contests and races I want to win, but I’m pretty sure I’m not looking for Charlie Sheen’s definition of the word.

Medieval armor on display in the White Tower of the Tower of London, London, England

Medieval armor on display in the White Tower of the Tower of London, London, England

Today’s verses are Romans 8:35-37.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Overwhelming victory sounds good to me. And it sounds like it’s only possible through Christ.

I love the New Living Translation. It’s my go-to translation, but see I learned this verse differently. And while overwhelming victory sounds good too, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. The way I learned verse 37 is as follows:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

More than conquerors. We aren’t just winners, we’re more than winners. It’s decisive. It’s certain. And it goes beyond victory to that place where there shouldn’t even be any doubt that we’ll win.

But for grins this morning, I looked up the Greek. Now, I don’t know Greek, but this is the age of Google. And cross referencing with Google is pretty easy and pretty cool if you already have a basic grasp of language. But Google Translate stuttered a bit and threw me this word: ὑπερνικάω.

Okay. Google wanted to separate it because it didn’t know what it was. So I just Googled that word, and I discovered something I didn’t know, which isn’t all that unusual. It’s just that it makes this verse even cooler than it was before.

Without going into tremendous etymological detail, let me sum this all up. Click on the link if you care, but the word ὑπερνικάω is a verb. It shows action. And it’s a combination of two other Greek words that mean beyond and conquer. It means a super-conqueror who is surpassingly and overwhelmingly victorious. And this is the only place in the Bible where this word appears.

Yeah. And I thought this verse rocked before.

In the other two translations, this phrase is translated as an adjective. A predicate adjective, of course, but not a verb. Word usage in a sentence means everything. It changes the power of the sentence. An adjective describes; a verb shows action. Yes, through Christ, I am more than a conqueror. But this goes beyond that. According to this, through Christ, I can more than conquer anything that anybody throws at me.

That’s the difference. I am verses I can.

I apologize for the grammar lesson, but this rocked my world this morning. It’s one thing to see yourself as more than a conqueror. It’s one thing to describe yourself as more than a conqueror. It’s something else entirely to live like it. Living like it takes action. Living like it takes doing, taking chances, taking risks–but if you believe this there is no chance, no risk, no danger because overwhelming victory is already yours through Christ. So what are you afraid of?

Whoa.

I fear failure. I fear what people think of me. I fear not living up to my own expectations, as well as the expectations of others. And on the other hand I fear success. I fear not knowing what to do with it. I fear so many things that I can’t control. But why am I afraid? Well, I’m trusting myself to do these things. I’m trusting my own abilities and my own knowledge and my own personality and quick wit to win the victory. But none of those things are what makes it possible for me to have surpassing, overwhelming victory over my fears. The only weapon that can do that is Christ.

So whatever you’re facing today, don’t face it with your own abilities. Don’t try to win with your charm or your intelligence. Don’t try to gain victory with your money or your influence. If you want to win, if you want victory, turn to Christ. He’s your secret weapon. Through Him, you can do anything. Through Him, you can more than conquer. You can live.

Now that’s winning for real.

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Penguin at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Choosing to rejoice

Christians are called to rejoice. Did you know that? We’re supposed to rejoice. It’s all over Scripture. Over and over again. Rejoice in good times. Rejoice in bad times. Rejoice when we get what we want and when we don’t. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice … and again I say, rejoice!

It’s even in today’s verse!

Penguin at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Penguin at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:12.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

But what is rejoicing? It’s not exactly one of those words we use a lot in our culture. For me, it usually only comes up when somebody is making fun of old-fashioned ways of speaking.

So, grammar and language nerd that I am, I decided to look it up on Dictionary.com. And this is what it had to say: 

Rejoice (verb used without object): 1. to be glad; take delight (often followed by in ): to rejoice in another’s happiness. (verb used with object) 2. to make joyful; gladden: a song to rejoice the heart.
 
Again, I love words. So this caught my eye. That rejoice can be both a transitive verb and an intransitive verb, meaning that it can be used with or without an object. Not all verbs are like that. Let me rephrase for the non-grammarians who I know are rolling my eyes at me right now:  
 
It means you rejoice because of something or it means that something makes you rejoice.
 
Maybe that sounds the same, but if you think about it, the context is completely different.
 
If something makes you rejoice, you don’t really choose it. It’s something so wonderful you just can’t help but be glad. But if you rejoice because of something, that doesn’t generally mean it’s something wonderful. That just means you choose to rejoice, and it can mean you choose to rejoice in spite of what has happened.
 
The verse says rejoice in our confident hope. I’ve blogged on this verse before and on the phrase confident hope, especially because there are other instances throughout Scripture where confident hope plays a big role in our walk. But at this point in my week of Mondays, I think I need to focus on rejoicing.
 
When I hear the phrase, “Rejoice in our confident hope,” my first reaction isn’t to think about hope. My first thought is an exclamation of how am I going to rejoice at all? In anything?
 
I’m exhausted. I’m stressed out. I’m worn down with waiting, and even though I’ve gotten some answers, they weren’t the answers I wanted. So how can I rejoice about all of that? Any rejoicing I do for any of that is likely to come off as half-hearted or sarcastic, and I don’t think God would appreciate that.
 
Remember the confusing discussion of transitive and intransitive verbs above? This use of rejoice is intransitive, meaning it doesn’t need an object. In my meager definition, it means you rejoice because of something. You choose it.
 
We can choose to rejoice in our confident hope, no matter what our circumstances are. Why? Because it’s confident hope.
 
So if you’ve had a great week and everything is going right in your life, that’s something that will make you rejoice.
 
But if you’re like me and have had a frustrating string of days where nothing goes as planned and you don’t get what you want and all you really want to do is stay in bed, choose to rejoice anyway.
 
If your hope is in Christ, it’s confident. Even if you don’t feel like it’s confident, it is. Because Christ is trustworthy. And He knows what you need. And He’s working everything out. And He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises. Your hope is confident, even if you don’t feel like it is. And that means, you can choose to rejoice.
 
Try it. It makes all the difference in the world. And after a few days of choosing to rejoice, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to rejoice without thinking about it.