There are fewer things more demotivating than a no-win situation. When your boss assigns more work than you have time to complete, or you realize that there is just no possible way that you can get to an appointment on time (without violating the laws of physics, much less traffic laws), it is natural to just give up and stop trying. Or, we start to think of excuses and invest energy into defending ourselves, rather than trying to do our best and deliver at least something (i.e., getting as much done as possible, or arriving as close to the start time as possible).
In the fictional Star Trek universe, the “Kobayashi Maru” simulation was a test given to aspiring captains, where no successful solution was possible. This, I suppose, was meant to see how they would handle such a situation when in command.
The good news is that God doesn’t call his people to no-win situations – at least, not in the eternal sense. Local setbacks, personal failures, and even embarrassing defeats are all offset by the glory that He has prepared for those who choose to follow Him. Furthermore, He often uses human mistakes to accomplish greater things. You can read about Joseph, David, Paul, and others in the Bible, to find out how God used human failures to accomplish great things, as well as plenty of other examples from history in the centuries since the Bible was written.
Have a look at what Paul sought for the believers in Thessalonica, within the verse below:
So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT
Paul (along with at least a couple of other guys with him) was praying that the believers would receive God’s help to live a “worthy” life. Certainly, being called by the all-powerful and all-loving God is a great honor, and if He didn’t help us succeed, I’m pretty sure that we wouldn’t be up to the challenge.
In addition, the second blessing in this passage complements the first: the power to achieve specific results. This is the very opposite of a no-win situation. Instead, it is more like divinely-received support to deliver what we are directed to do. We might even think of it as a “no-lose” scenario, where we have everything that we need to do these good things.
To be clear, there will almost certainly be circumstances when we aren’t able to meet a personal goal, or where we feel that we can’t live up to others’ expectations. Missions that we felt were from God may appear to fail miserably. Some of us could even find ourselves in a situation that costs us our mortal lives. These are not necessarily an indication that we have come up short – only that we live in a fallen world.
We can also take hope in the fact – corroborated by history, both distant and recent – that sometimes good things are accomplished at a larger scale than any one of us can see from our finite viewpoints.
Still, the follower of Jesus Christ has access to sources of power that simply aren’t available elsewhere. This help from God may come in the way of provision (making sure that we have the skills, resources, and opportunities that we need), intervention (where He tweaks the normal operation of the universe that He created), or inspiration (pointing us in the right direction, and giving us the strength that we need to take action). These aren’t “superpowers” meant to make us look great in the eyes of others, or self-seeking abilities intended to help us accumulate wealth, power, or luxury for merely our own benefits (not that God doesn’t sometimes gift these things to certain people). Instead, they allow us to do good for God’s kingdom, for other human beings, and for His glory.
May you be blessed with the same blessing that Paul had for the Thessalonian church: living for God’s call, and having the power to accomplish good things.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.