Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day Fourteen: For God, Victory is Easy!

Have you ever tried to help a child while they tried to help you help them? Not so easy is it?

“Mommy will you button my jacket for me?” my daughter implored, looking sweetly up at me with clear, trusting eyes of love.

“Sure,” I said, and leaned down to start on the top button. But as soon as I did she began to work from the bottom, matching the last button to the second to the last buttonhole, twisting and jerking the coat repeatedly from my grip with her efforts.

“It’s not working, Mom. I need your help!”

To which I responded that I could help her much better if she would take her hands off the coat and let me work. It’s so much easier that way.

And so it goes. Like when we bring our problems to the Lord for help. First, He has to remind us He can handle it, and sometimes even pry our hands loose from the things we bring to Him. Only then can He do His work. What seems impossible to us is easy for God.

God told the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom to go to war against the king of Moab. Their route led them through a wilderness where they were without water for seven days and they panicked. They were ready to admit defeat and go back home, until they asked God’s prophet Elisha to find out what He wanted them to do.

Elisha said, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water!  You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious. You will conquer…”(2 Ki. 3:16-19, emphasis mine, NLT)

No water? No problem for God! The Bible, history, and current events prove nothing is too hard for Him: Power over the forces of nature? No problem. Power to heal sickness and cast out demons? Easy. Wisdom for any dilemma? He’s got it. Victory over any circumstance, even death? Simple. So why not lift our cares to Him and let go?

The other day in the car I mentioned (even for this directionally challenged driver) that our route home from there was going to be “Easy Shmeezy.” From the back seat my four year old granddaughter joyfully repeated, “Easy Sneezy!” She liked the sound of it so well that her mom and I heard the singsong phrase over and over for the next few miles. Oh, that we would so joyfully give our problems to God, for whom everything is Easy Shmeezy!

I know I don’t always understand His ways. Sometimes He doesn’t bring victory as quickly as I would like, or the way I think He should. His plan can even look like a bad idea halfway through. Sometimes He pushes us into action when we want Him to do it all for us, and other times He tells us, “I’ve got this, child, take your hands off the buttons.” Whatever route He takes us, even through the wilderness, if we will listen and follow His directions, He will make us victorious.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day Thirteen: You Can’t Build and Fight at the Same Time

“You know that my father, David, was not able to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord his God because of the many wars waged against him by surrounding nations. He could not build until the Lord gave him victory over all his enemies.”
1 Ki. 5:3, NLT

You don’t see much new construction going on in war zones. It would be wasted effort. No sooner would you build a wall than it would be blown to smithereens. Satan wants to keep us from building for the honor of our God – making our lives a battlefield without time for rest. He wants to keep us on the defensive so we’re too depleted and distracted to build anything new for the Lord’s glory.

Building for almost 100 years at La Sagrada de Familia in Barcelona, Spain

That’s what happened to me yesterday. When I was weak – nursing my first nasty cold of the winter, I got hit with an attack to my spirit that left me staggering and wounded. Worse yet, I was assaulted by a soldier from my own side! The arrows were gossip, assumption, anger, and personal bias. Not based on facts or direct communication. And they had been left to simmer.

My first response when I heard about it was to feel sorry for myself; hide out and lick my wounds. Then God revealed what the enemy was trying to do and reminded me who I am in Him. In Christ I am valuable; I know who I am and who I belong to. I do not have to prove myself or seek to please any other. God is my Defender and my security. So today I claim victory over gossip, anger, lies, ingratitude, and envy, and I refuse to let them distract me from building for the honor of our King. 

I know I’m not the only one who gets hit with stuff like this. Are you under attack by people, attitudes, or circumstances that keep you on the defense? The enemy will never stop waging war on us, but we can choose to deflect his ammo with the shield of faith. The Lord will bring us victory through peaceful minds and hearts. Then we can turn our attention and energies to building faith, friendships, family, fellowship with believers, Christlike attitudes, and love for others. Even the ones who choose to war against us.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day Twelve: Victory In the Middle of Ordinary

One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils.
The Israelite army fled, but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.
2 Sam. 23:11-12, NLT

Have you ever said any of the following?
  • * I tend to feel closest to God in times of crisis.
  • * It’s the day to day stuff that trips me up.
  • * Most of our fights are over ridiculous, petty things.
  • * Normal life bores me. 

I think we’ve all said, or thought, most of these things. We tend to prepare for action when we can see the enemy coming to attack our city. However, one of Satan’s favorite tricks is to sneak up on us in the field when we’re not expecting it. In otherwise ordinary moments – when we’re getting ready for church, dropping the kids off at school, on lunch break, going for a walk in the neighborhood, or checking Facebook - suddenly we’re under attack and don’t know how to respond. Others are running for cover. Will you run, or will you stay and fight?

Shammah was willing to fight for a field of lentils. He did his job and God brought the victory. A popular crop today, lentils are hardy, inexpensive, nutritious, high in fiber, and can be served a number of ways. Because they are common, many might view them as ordinary. Not important enough to defend. That’s where they’re wrong.

It’s the basic, ordinary things of life that are most worth defending – things like honesty, faithfulness, truth, rest, giving, serving. These are the things that will last, that nourish and sustain us. They can be served up a variety of delicious ways to bless and strengthen others.       When we take a stand for the ordinary, we build muscle for the bigger battles that threaten to crumble our faith. How do we prepare for these unexpected skirmishes? By filling up daily from the Word of God and meditating on those truths as we go about the day. Then when the enemy sneaks up on us, we can use the weapons we already have at hand. If we do our job, God will bring the victory.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day Eleven: Fighting Till You Can’t Fight No More

Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines
when the entire Israelite army had fled.
He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword,
and the Lord gave him a great victory that day.
The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!
2 Sam. 23:9-10, NLT

Ever get tired of doing the right thing? Ever feel like you’ve fought against the evil one until you can’t even raise your sword anymore? The enemies of God are plentiful – lies, deceit, hatred, abuse, ignorance, apathy, laziness, greed…they surround us from everywhere to attack our faith and destroy the effectiveness of the Good News of Christ. Some of those enemies even rise up from inside our ranks, and inside our own hearts and minds. It takes stout determination to keep fighting. Battle fatigue is a reality, if you’re really serious about living the Christian life.

Sometimes we feel like we’re the only ones standing for what’s right. Other believers may be distracted, uncommitted, or only interested in showing up to collect the blessings during times of celebration or worship. They are like Eleazar’s fellow soldiers who didn’t show up until it was time to collect the plunder.

The Bible doesn’t say too much about him, but I like Eleazar. He didn’t give up until the job was done. He fought till he couldn’t fight anymore, and God gave him victory. Apparently he didn’t worry too much about what the other guys were doing. There’s no word of him complaining that the rest of the army ran away and left he and David to do all the fighting. He wasn’t even resentful when they came back to collect rewards.

My guess is that Eleazar wasn’t in the battle for the goods, or the fame, or how buff he would get wielding his sword. I think he fought the way he did because he loved his king; he loved his people; and he wasn’t willing to give even one inch of ground to the enemy. No matter what the cost, what the odds - no matter how tired he got.

That’s the kind of soldier I want to be for the Lord. I want to stand with my King, even if all others run from the battle, and fight until I am too weary to even raise my sword, the Word of God. I will fight for love of our King; for love of the worldwide body of believers; refusing the let Satan gain any ground. Through prayer and complete abandonment to my Lord and Savior, I want to be victorious in my personal life, for my family, for my church, and our community.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day Ten: Defeating the Accusations of the Enemy

You gave me victory over my accusers.
  2 Sam. 22:44 and Psa. 18:43, NLT

I got back to our dorm room tired but happy, after an afternoon of tennis. When I opened the door, my roommate turned to greet me with an icy stare. She was mad! It didn’t take many questions before she released a torrent of angry words. “You think you’re so cute, don’t you? Just because you’re athletic and popular, you get to run around in the sunshine all the time, while all I do is sit around and do homework.” She proceeded to fling the contents of her drawers at me, a handful at a time, while I made useless attempts at discussion. When she hurled the drawers themselves, I made a hasty exit.

What in the world had I done to bring that on? I wondered. It didn’t take long to realize she wasn’t mad at me, but the awkward, itchy cast she’d worn almost since her arrival at college. In a freak accident only a month into school, she had shattered her ankle, which was pinned together and extremely painful. Seeing me bop in and out of our room having fun, while she hobbled around campus week after week had been like a knife in her gut. And that was the day she released her pent up emotion. On me.

Her accusations were unjust. I wasn’t a tennis star by any means – just out having fun. I had friends, but certainly wasn’t in the popular group at school. And I did my share of homework. Even if I had been “guilty” of these things, they were not justifiable reasons for hate.

Accusers come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes their accusations are as ridiculous and unfounded as the scene above. At other times, they pinpoint a sin from the past which we cannot deny. The worst accusations come from within – we convict ourselves. We forget we have a Father who doesn’t take His forgiveness back once we’ve asked for it, even when our minds keep reminding us of our wretchedness. Accusations are distracting, draining, and defeating.

We currently know several people who have been falsely accused of heinous crimes, and it looks like the enemy is winning. Whether the accusations stem from ignorance, a misinterpretation of the evidence, or evil intent, Christians are sometimes punished unjustly. This is hard to reconcile with scriptures like: Psalm 37:32-33, Luke 18:1-8, and today’s verses that promise justice. Yet we know from history as well as our own experiences that sometimes the innocent suffer.

So then, is victory a lie? I believe the answer comes in Paul’s speech to the Athenians: “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

The Day is coming when Jesus will set the record straight. Satan is the ultimate accuser. He rejoices when God’s children are “found guilty” either publicly or in our own hearts. The Good News is, if we are clean before God the Accuser cannot crush us. God will take him out in the end, “The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” Rev. 12:10.

God will protect us even if the truth is temporarily concealed. God will use it somehow, as only He can, for good. And we can be confident that God will make all things right in the life to come. That will be our complete and final victory!