Irish boxer Steven Donnelly defeated Mongolian boxer Tuvshinbat Byamba, in a split decision at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but lost at the same time. Lacking confidence before the match, Donnelly made a bet with a bookmaker that he would lose. So he won the match but lost his bet. Punishment from the International Olympic Committee was only a reprimand, because he was unaware of Olympic rules against sports betting and had “no intent to manipulate any event” (WORLD, October 29, 2016, p. 13).
Seems pretty dumb to bet against yourself, unless you are planning to lose. Why would anyone work at cross purposes to himself, betting against himself, and then trying to win the fight?
But before dismissing Steven Donnelly too quickly, we might ask ourselves why we also work at cross purposes to ourselves. The most important thing we could hope for our families is that every member would go to heaven. Yet Christians will neglect worship, roast the elders and preacher, and demonstrate that Christ and His church are surely not the most important thing in their lives, and then be surprised when their children have less faith than they have.
The lure of sin is so powerful that we must be constantly on guard to make sure that our lives are consistent with God’s will, and that we do not lose our priorities. Even Paul had to fight against the evil he found within.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:19-23).
It was enough to make him want to give up: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Like Paul, we can rejoice: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). With every sin, every missed opportunity to serve God, I am betting against myself. Paul says, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).