I was recently horrified to hear of a parent telling their child the following: not doing enough devotions at nationals might make God not bless you with winning debate rounds.

This is one of the reasons we don’t like Facing the Giants (a movie). God sometimes had his disciples die and face terrible circumstances because his purpose was bigger. You can’t just pray and expect to win football games, much less debate rounds against other Christians 😛

A couple problems…

1. If that were true, then Cameron and Andrew must have been praying the most. So must Josiah and Patrick the year before. I know for a fact that isn’t true in the latter case 😉 There are character lessons learned even through winning at nationals, including how God can use circumstances to show you he IS around and caring for you even when you’re ignoring him.

2. If that were true, Job would be wrong. His friend tells him that all the adverse circumstances he has experienced must be because of some great sin. Not so.

3. Jesus talks about circumstances linked to actions pretty plainly. There was a man blind from birth. The disciples asked if it was the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused the blindness. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (see John 9)

4. “Good” and “bad” things happen for reasons we don’t always see or know. Whether winning debate rounds is “good” or “bad” is actually dependent on what happens next–there is no inherent good in winning a debate round.

5. God doesn’t necessarily reward those who are outwardly holy or checking the block. Blessings (cars?) don’t rain down when you read your Bible every day. Even the man who had done all the commandments needed to put his heart in it for salvation, and the people who do everything good without love are clanging gongs and cymbals (which are occasionally good, but not in this case).

When you work hard and don’t win, when you get sick before the big day, and losing when you shouldn’t are all ways God can teach you what he has in mind to teach you.

Only one team can win the national championship. Every other team loses. Much like a war between two countries both praying to the same God, debate is kind of weird because everyone is on the same team even while competing in elimination rounds.

Why am I writing about this? There’s a takeaway: Learning debate is largely about learning character and wisdom. The attitude that God’s blessings = winning debate rounds misunderstands the point of debate (placing the emphasis on winning and not learning, among other things), learns the wrong lessons of character and wisdom, and shows a fundamental skew of the nature of God.

Debate should teach students how God values you no matter how well you perform. Learning to accept criticism, be content in results, and cheer on others are all important lessons one can learn from losing. Praying more is important, but you will be set up for sad life and judge God wrongly if you think it will gain you what you think is “good” for you.

I’d love to hear a couple stories in the comments about things you’ve learned from losing.

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