Now Reading: When Winners Look Like Losers


When Winners Look Like Losers

October 23, 201410 min read

What do winners look like? Are they tall or short? Black or white? Strong or weak? I guess it depends on what we mean by “winner.”

I was sucked into the story of one winner this past month as a read a lengthy, but engaging biography of Michael Jordan. The detailed account reminded me why many people’s obsession with him borders on hero worship. Many things can be said about “his airness” but nobody could ever claim he’s not a winner. Did he look like a winner before he got all those championship rings, though?

As you read the book, it seemed clear from his childhood that he would be a champion. Whether that was his outstanding play as a little league pitcher or as a junior varsity basketball player; his high school growth spurt or his game winning shot during his freshman year with UNC.

By the time I got to the chapters about his championships as a Chicago Bull, there were no surprises. The author told his story in a way that made it clear: Jordan was born to be a winner. And that’s what we know him for: winning six championship rings, five MVPs, and 14 All Star appearances (not to mention his unchallenged reign in the athletic shoe game).

This kind of unchallenged reign is what usually comes to mind first when we think “winner.” But I want us to leave room for another kind of winner. The kind of winner who doesn’t have all the makings of a champion. The kind of winner whose weaknesses are more noteworthy than his strengths. The kind of winner who looks more like a loser sometimes.

Conquered, but Conquering

I’ll be honest with you. The last two years have been amazing in many ways, but they’ve also been pretty hard. I’ve enjoyed a strong marriage and the beginning of two little lives. I’ve experience the joy of pastoral minsitry in a healthy church. But I’ve also been plagued with weakness. It’s hard for outsiders to tell sometimes because I seem to be doing so many good things. But if only you could see a little closer.

I have chronic fatigue syndrome. I know, I had never heard of it before either. Maybe that’s why when it hit me it felt more like a sucker punch than an organized bout. In the beginning it really handicapped me— I was only awake for six hours a day, and exhausted for the other eighteen. Over the next year it did get better, but it still left me a shell of what I used to be. I’ve lived the last seven years with a neverending fatigue. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt rested— like my battery died, but never recharged.

Energy is like the fuel that powers every area of our life. We need it for every task, every conversation, every thought. And when that fuel is low, everything suffers. For some reason, my body won’t let me refuel. Instead my tank lingers right above “E,” and I try to make it through. It’s left me limping through every area of my life.

I tell you all this, not for your sympathy, but to challenge how you think. Some may look at the missed deadlines,  the discouraging days,  the occasional tension in my marriage, and think, “Man, this guy is losing right now.” It sure feels like losing when I have to change my life plans yet again or tell my son, “Daddy’s too tired to play right now.” I would be lying if I said it wasn’t discouraging and trying. Yet, I still claim my sweet victory.

No, I’m not the superhuman strong kind of winner; I’m actually pretty weak. I’m a different kind of winner. And I suspect many of you are too.

A Different Kind of Winner

I do have victory, but not because my strength has secured it. My victory happens in spite of my weaknesses, even my sins. I’m not the victor who defeated foes and secured the win; I really just received it. I have victory in Jesus.

Paul puts it like this in Romans:

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:36-37).

Paul quotes Psalm 44, where the Psalmist cries out for God’s help in the midst of trial. And Paul uses that verse to make his point that nothing can undo what God has done for us in Christ.

One of the most striking things is that after mentioning terrible things: being killed, being slaughtered, Paul says even in those things we are conquerors. Even when we lose, we’re winning. Even when we’re being conquered by this fallen world, we remain conquerors through Jesus. The small daily battles don’t determine our fate, because the war has already been won. Doesn’t that bring you incredible hope? If we’re in Christ, we really can’t lose.

Maybe, like me, you’re in a season of great difficulty. I want to encourage you with a few ways I think about this truth.

1. Don’t Just Look at You

When I spend my day focusing on my weakness and grumbling in my heart, I only feed my discouragement and fuel my false sense of hopelessness. When I stare at me I think I’ve lost, but when I stare at Jesus I’m reminded that I win. When he was defeating his foes, he was defeating them on our behalf.

2. Don’t Just Look at Now

If I only focus on today or these past few years, I’m tempted to think this is how it will always be. But Jesus purchased unbelievable things for me on the cross that I haven’t expereienced yet. I know God imperfectly now, but I get to know him perfectly later. He’ll even give me a brand new body and wipe away all my tears.

We can also be tempted to focus on those who seem to be winning now. Those who don’t have the same trials and setbacks that always seem to plague us. But the team that’s winning in the third quarter isn’t always the team who wins in the end. Many people seem to be winning the daily battles, but they haven’t trusted in the One who’s won the war. Don’t just look at now.

Sweet Victory

Michael Jordan remains one of the greatest and most popular winners we’ve ever seen. But there are bigger wins to be had. And none of us has what it takes to win the war ourselves; only Christ can do that. He’s defeated all of our enemies for us: sin, Satan, and death itself. All it takes to join the team and benefit from his wins is turning from sin and trusting in the Savior. Anyone, even the weakest among us can be winners.

This is the truth that was in my heart when I wrote these words in “Sweet Victory”:

The victor ain’t the one that’s winning seventh inning
Trophies don’t go to the ones that got a good beginning
When I say I win I don’t mean this day I’m in
I mean that day when the gray skies fade out, then I’m winning ’cause I reign with him

Make sure to pick up a copy of “Rise” when it comes out 10.27.14!

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  • Liam

    October 23, 2014 / at 12:44 pm

    Trip I’ve been playing sweet victory non-stop the past couple days, God’s working in your life and is going to be working through your album. Praying for you

  • Emerson Tillman II

    October 23, 2014 / at 1:08 pm

    God bless you bro.

  • Victoria Jones

    October 23, 2014 / at 1:17 pm

    This is such an inspiring word. Your song articulates the intricate relationship between glory moments, and uncontrollable pitfalls. Thank you. I now know that everything, good and bad, comes down from the Father of Lights.

  • Dena

    October 23, 2014 / at 1:48 pm

    Great read! I’m so encouraged by this! I’m obsessed with the song!

  • SteveL

    October 23, 2014 / at 3:43 pm

    Trip, this song has been a huge blessing into my life already! My dad and sister have some health issues that they have been dealing with for several years and your description for why and how you wrote this song is beautiful and comforting. Thank you for being true to your faith and to the gospel.

  • Nathan

    October 23, 2014 / at 5:06 pm

    I am in awe that your mentality is still strong during the weakness. A true role model.

  • Lydia

    October 23, 2014 / at 10:41 pm

    This was so encouraging to me. My energy has been at the same level as yours for the past two years… I was finally diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease a couple months ago and my fatigue is finally getting lighter! I hope you can eventually find something that helps you! You’re doing so so so much more than people realize. Props to you! You’re an inspiration to me :)

  • Cheyenne

    October 23, 2014 / at 11:52 pm

    My brother has chronic fatigue and I wanted to know if I could hook you both up so that he can talk with you?

  • Denise

    October 24, 2014 / at 1:41 am

    God bless you Mr. Barefield. I’ve been utterly blessed watching your sermons, listening to your music, reading your articles and posts. I pray supernaturally healing in the mighty name of Jesus over your body. I pray for continued strength and endurance to touch you so you can do the Lords work without growing tired but rather to be renewed each and every day. I pray blessings over you, Jennifer and your two little ones. I thank you Lord for Williams obedience to Your calling in his life as a pastor, husband, father and artist. Let your light continue to shine thru his life. Thank you Father, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

  • duran Lowery

    October 24, 2014 / at 12:32 pm

    I’m a true believer. In today’s society it’s very easy to get side tracked worried about how other people live their lives. Can’t wait for RISE to come out. Trip u really do inspire me to be the best man an father to wife an kids.

  • Patrick

    October 24, 2014 / at 12:49 pm

    Trip, thanks for sharing your heart man. The fact you are suffering and are still able to produce such quality work is inspiring. God has really used your music to speak to my life. And I’m so grateful there are guys like you in the music (specifically hip-hop) industry who aren’t afraid of absolute truth. I hope Rise isn’t your last album, but if it is, I’m so thankful for all that you’ve taught me in your past 4 albums.

  • Vince

    October 24, 2014 / at 1:00 pm

    I’m always encouraged by your posts bro and this might be the best one yet! I’m praying for your strength and can’t wait to cop the album!

  • Charlana

    October 24, 2014 / at 1:16 pm

    Hey Trip,

    I truly enjoy your song “Sweet Victory”, it stays on repeat & I look forward to hearing the rest of the CD. God bless you & your family & continued success to you!

  • Chester

    October 24, 2014 / at 1:26 pm

    I recently saw your performance while you were here in Denver October 9th. I had no idea about your health maladies until then. I was deeply touched when you performed your song “Sweet Victory.” I too have been battling various physical ailments nearing a time of four years. So, your song resonanted with me, bringing me to the brink of tears. Having just read your piece on your illness, I have found that you have been suffering from the same thing I have been for some time: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was through my physical struggles that compelled me to reliquish my pride and life of indulgence and brought me back to a renewed commitment to Christ; ultimately, I am grateful that this has happened to me. I have only met one other person who has an accurate idea of the challenges that this syndrome brings. I have been showered with the outpouring of God’s grace, prayers from others, and the unyielding commitment of my wife which helps me continue with God’s purposes as I continue my studies to go into ministry as a philosopher. We serve a God who not only intimately understands the suffering of the world, but conquered through it. Thank you for your service of God’s kingdom and disclosing details of your life.

  • christian

    October 24, 2014 / at 1:51 pm

    Trip! You have been an encouragement through your music and sermons bro! Love how God is using you! Your bangers get me goin bro ! I’ll be praying for you too! Oh and -good look on that song too!

  • Mitch

    October 24, 2014 / at 2:31 pm

    Brother Trip,

    God bless you for your unwavering faith and trust that He will heal you and make you whole in true Shweet Victory!!! Grace be to God…

  • Mackender

    October 24, 2014 / at 2:43 pm

    I was tremendously blessed by this article. My heart rejoices as I read and ponder my future inheritance in Christ. Thank you trip. Can’t wait to get the album. I’ve always been blessed by you man.

  • Erica D. Clanton

    October 24, 2014 / at 3:43 pm

    This was really what i needed to read and Sweet Victory really touches my heart. Thanks Trip for sharing what God gave u so we can see His vision for our lives!! Praying for u!

  • isaiah

    October 24, 2014 / at 4:05 pm

    Love your music man. It and other Christian hip hop music has and is and will continue to help God change my life. Our struggle is not forever as you well know tripp. Thanks for the reminder.

  • GabeTaviano

    October 24, 2014 / at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for being transparent, Trip. Our fam’s moving to Cambodia on January 3rd. I have a few private questions for you, hoping to ask before we leave. Could you maybe shoot me an email (to the email I used to comment here)? Looking forward to my pre-order of RISE. Really great work!!

  • ChristyCapp

    October 24, 2014 / at 11:05 pm

    I am so looking’ forward the album!! Thats a great song to start it off with. True talent and REAL lyrics that change life.. ain’t nothin’ better than that! CFS sucks and is devastating. I got it at 18 in college when it first came out. But you can overcome it and you will..with proper diet and excercise. So there’s hope! Prayer first, water every hour. I made water my best friend to detox, cut white flour, pasta and fast food. Most of us walkin’ around dehydrated and replacing it with more food. It’s through our trials that he works in us the most. In that time of being sick (still) was when God was most able do His work… Best wishes to you and your album and your fam and your church & much continued success!

  • Jesus

    October 25, 2014 / at 6:00 am

    Awesome insight, into what the world would have us see as “losing” in this life. When in all reality we are all born losers, including those, that the world considers “winners”..! If, they don’t come to the “knowledge” or “knowing” of the TRUTH, which is “JESUS”, they remain losers..! Even if, to the world, they appear to be winners..! Thanks for sharing your “weakness”, when in REALITY, you have been made STRONGE..!! Praise be to The Lord, that He would make known to us through our weakness that we are TRULY STONGE because of Knowing Him…!! Keep pressing forward my friend and brother even if The Lord grants you only His grace in the mist of your struggles..!! Praying for You..!

  • Ashley

    October 25, 2014 / at 9:16 am

    I had no idea you were facing this battle. I read your book, “the good life” a while back but don’t remember seeing that. I was so blessed by your article today, you’re in my prayers brother. My cousin suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and it’s very difficult for her to enjoy things she used to. Thank you for sharing, my heart goes out to you and your wife today. Fight the good fight. You’re a True Champion. Jesus’s love conquers all. P.s. dope song too!

  • Rachel

    October 25, 2014 / at 10:36 am

    I am so thankful for Sweet Victory. I listened on YouTube and it gave me my spark back. I have been struggling with discouragement. I think I lost my hope here for a few weeks. Can’t think of how else to put it. Hopelessness made me feel cut off from God and was the worst part of all. I was crying out to him, asking him to help me out of this overwhelming despondency. Your Sweet Victory lyrics spoke straight to that broken part of me and retriggered my hope. This article has also encouraged me. God is so good. I was surrounded by people who love me at church but had no idea how to ask them for help, or even how to explain what I was going thru. God decided to use you, all the way from Texas. Thank you!

  • Julia Rieb

    October 25, 2014 / at 3:01 pm

    Trip (and Jess)–
    Thanks so much for this encouraging song. I cannot wait to get your new album. We (my Parents) just adopted a little boy from Haiti. He has cerebral palsy. Although it has been a hard road with all his disabilities, I know that Jesus gives us victory over all things. I saw you in concert in Salt Lake City, UT a couple weeks ago, and you gave me such hope. Thank you!
    And congratulations to you and the Mrs. on the new little one. Whether he (or her) is born or not. :) Love you guys!

  • Dina

    October 26, 2014 / at 8:15 am

    Trip, I am about as far from your expected crowd base as one can get…Caucasian Canadian mama of five who drives a mini van! But blaring from my speakers is always some rap with a steady rotation of Trip Lee! I love the song Sweet Victory and this reality that was birthed in a new way from your health struggle resonated with me. For the last 8 years I’ve struggled with a similar weakness after the premature birth of my daughter. It is a humbling road to walk and one I still learning to trust God in. Thank you for sharing your hope and providing an example of an unashamed man of God for young men to respect and emulate. Blessings to you, bro!

  • Di

    October 30, 2014 / at 9:59 am

    Downloaded the album yesterday and I love it! My fav is “All Rise Up”; I have it on replay… lol… thanks for the wonderful album Trip. Hope to watch you in concert one day.

  • Gabky

    November 7, 2014 / at 8:12 pm

    Wow. This is my first time coming across this site and I’m loving all the posts I’ve read so far. I’ve been so blessed and encouraged.This is just what I needed at this moment to know that despite my weaknesses he still reigns in my life and I can look to him and always be uplifted.
    I had no idea you were going through this, you’re in my prayers. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you so much.
    Just listened to Sweet Victory and I’ve been so blessed by your song! And I can’t wait to listen to the whole album. I’m sure that’s all I’ll be listening to these coming weeks. Continue the good work!

  • Latasha

    November 8, 2014 / at 7:54 pm

    This blog post was such a blessing to me. Often, I don’t feel understood by family, friends, or some church family on this walk, but this post help me put things in perspective and stop complaining about life. I realized that there is a blessing within our weaknesses. God truly shows his power/love for us, by helping us overcome our struggles, when we realize that He is the only way we can keep going. Thanks for the post and your song Sweet Victory is amazing!

    Grace and Peace,
    Tasha F.

  • TTunique

    November 17, 2014 / at 9:42 am

    My daughter dedicated this song to me. I could not stop listening and crying. I Have been battling immune system issues for 15 years. The last 3 years were near hell. But the Lord was dealing hard with my heart during that time. I finally got it and surrendered to him. I am now getting answers left and right and coming out slowly. I’m not out all the way, but I’m not as exhausted as I was. It’s amazing!!! This song……this song! Tears……

  • Tim

    December 4, 2014 / at 1:56 am

    I always feel a sense of joy when I hear a new song from you or even see a posted sermon or read your blog. You are inspiring! I don’t directly know what CFS is like but I have seen it. A family friends mother from my church has it. There are times when we see her then there are long stretches when we don’t. But whenever I do see her she is always joyful. When I read this I thought of her because I tell her every time how much I am inspired by her that in the midst of it all she praises Jesus. She has been victorious because she refuses to think down on the situation. You two are most definitely winners! I’m glad that you are able to share your heart with us. It means so much to me.

  • Burton

    December 4, 2014 / at 8:54 pm

    You don’t know how much this means to me. When it seems like the whole world is against you, you know that you’ll win in the end with flying colors! And now knowing what you’ve been going through the past seven years, you can know that you are in my prayers Bro. Thanks for opening up your heart to us.

  • Femi

    March 16, 2015 / at 5:58 pm

    Trip, you are a huge inspiration. RISE is a great album and i love it! As concerning your health, i believe its just a temporary flame of afflicton preparing you for the glory to be revealed. God is set to use you more brother. so don’t grow weary. keep believing and praying. I love you brother.

  • Nate

    April 26, 2015 / at 9:13 pm

    Chronic Fatigue has plagued my life from when I was 13 or 14 years old all the way up until only a matter of weeks ago (I’m 28 now). Years of prayer and research finally led my family and I to the answer; Diet was the root cause. Removing all grains, dairy, nightshades, preservatives and processed foods from my life has led to a complete recovery. I have never felt better.

    I don’t know if there could be a similar dietary solution for your CFS, but I wanted to let you know anyway.

    Keep up the good work. I’ll be praying for you.

  • ThomLomas

    December 7, 2015 / at 4:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing these words. I wish I would’ve read this last year but I wasn’t meant to read it until now. Now that I had a little better understanding on why these things happened. Thanks again, God bless.

    -Thom L.

  • Brandon Martinez

    April 23, 2016 / at 12:49 pm

    I love you trip lee you are a big inspiring role model to my walk in faith with god. Ive learned to trust him ive learned that the scriptures when applied to my life become blessings in so many ways. You truly inspire me and I hope that one day god will give me the opportunity to meet you and lecrae you both have helped me see life instead of death. Everyday I listen to gospel hip hop and start my morning with thanking god for waking me up then I make coffee and put my bluebuds in my ears and turn on gospel hip hop and listen study even loom up words I dont know in the dictionary at words I dont quite understand so I lnow the deeper meaning because im a deep thinker. One pray and hearts desire of mine is to talk to you in some way one day even if its just a few messages on facebook or a phone call but would be awesome to sit down with you in person and discuss allot of christian beliefs and answer each others questions and concerns. I am 26 years old I have a rough background and past and christ has changed me from day to day all for his glory and a greater good so I can reach out and inspire others with my testimony that shows in my actions not just in words . Im a believer. Romans 1:16 I am unashamed of the gospel. I talk about god everday with people even my friends look up to me and have changed because of how god changed me. I really hope you see this message from me and read it through. Your story is strong and christ is in your heart always. Please if you have a moment one day text me. Call me. Write me on facebook. Email me id love to just have one conversation with you. Btw your story brought tears to my eyes. God bless you,your wife,and children in all your days and all you do.

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