From where Charlie Sheen sits, he may actually think that he is a winner. After all, he's been earning piles of cash for years, he has access to all the drugs he wants and the delusion that he can "handle" their effects, and he's got two live-in "goddesses" who don't seem to mind that he's still married to Brooke Mueller. Big house, lots of money, lots of attention. Plenty to sate his various appetites. What more could a man want, right?
The sad thing is that there are actually people besides the drugged and delusional Sheen who think that he's "winning". Even those who don't think drug use is a good idea often agree that being famous and having piles of cash, a big house, and a hot girlfriend are goals to aspire to. Our society encourages to look up to the haves and to look down on the have-nots. People who can sell themselves effectively get admiration and people who cling exclusively to their integrity are labeled fools. American culture tells us that rich is better than poor (or even middle class), leading is better than following, praise is better than silence, beauty is better than kindness, having stuff will make us happy, and everyone prefers "winners".
But let us consider for a moment how these ideas compare to the goals of a Christian life:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
This young man would have been considered a winner both in his society and ours. He was rich and he was morally upstanding. He was young and presumably healthy, and he addresses Jesus with respect, not arrogance or sarcasm. He seems like a pretty good guy, doesn't he? Jesus even loved him—and that's why he tried to tell this young man about true victory and how to obtain it. The things that we think of as victories here on Earth—amassing wealth, fame, security, or public approval—can actually hinder us from reaching the true victory of eternal life with God. It's like winning a battle only to lose the war. What good is that? Where was this young man's wealth going to get him in the long run? Where is Charlie Sheen's "winning" going to get him?
From a Christian perspective, the truth is that we have to be willing to be losers to find true victory. We have to be able to risk being poor or unpopular. We have to be at peace with losing our lives in order to save them. True victory comes from God and may not always be apparent here on Earth. John the Baptist, who prepared the world to receive Jesus, lived out in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey and dressed in camel's hair. A lot of people thought he was crazy. And yet Jesus said that "among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist." (Matthew 11:11)
Would we be willing to leave everything we own behind and follow Jesus? Would we leave our families and our lives as the disciples did when they were called? Would we live out in the wilderness and preach a message that the respected leaders decry as insanity if God asked it of us? Can we give up everything we've gained in this life in order to inherit a better, truer kind of life, even if that life is invisible to most of the people around us? God is going to ask all of us hard questions, and every one of us is given tasks that challenge us. We will face hardships and temptations. But through all that we will gain a stronger relationship with God, and that will bring us true life. We will be REAL winners then.