Small victories win wars

It’s March, guys! The third month of 2017 has already begun. How are you doing with your resolutions? Confession time: January was a complete failure for me, and February wasn’t much better.

I had plans to eat right, to exercise regularly, to rest, and to spend time with the Lord. And while I managed some of it some of the time, overall I failed completely. So in March I trying again.

Does anyone else struggle with this? You have the best, most sincere intentions. You make plans and contingencies. You psyche yourself up for the difficult days, and you try to prepare yourself for the inevitable temptation. You do everything you can to convince your traitorous brain that you shouldn’t eat that or that you’ll feel better after you walk those two miles or you’ll get all your work done eventually and a break will be good for you.

But it doesn’t work.

And then one day you find yourself sacked out on the couch eating M&Ms out of a ten-pound bag while you start in on your fifteenth draft of the same article, and the treadmill makes fun of you silently from its darkened corner of the basement. You feel like the biggest loser on planet Earth.

How does that happen? Well, I’m not sure if it’s the same for anyone else, but I’ve begun to suspect that my approach to goals in general is to blame. I’m a big picture person. I don’t do details very well, and I usually operate under the assumption that no matter what happens, everything will eventually work out.

And since God is in control, that’s true for His people. He’s big enough to work out the details of our lives so that they turn into something beautiful, even if the circumstances are horrible. But that doesn’t absolve us from making wise choices in the mean time.

God gave us brains for a reason.

So many times, as Christians, I think we focus too much on the war, instead of the battle. Wars are made up of many little battles, some that we win and others that we lose. And, frankly, we lose those little battles because we’re willing to accept defeat. In the grand scheme of the war, we can lose a battle because it won’t affect the eventual outcome.

That’s both comforting in one sense and terrifying in another. Yes, it’s great to realize that we’ve already won the war regardless of how many battles we may lose. But does that mean we can just stop fighting?

No! Of course not! (Romans 6:1) Just because Jesus has already accomplished the final goal doesn’t give us the excuse to give up today’s battle. And make no mistake. Today is a battle. This very moment is a battle.

If anyone ever tells you that this life can be free of conflict, struggle, or strife, they’re selling something. Just being honest. Our life here was never meant to be free of those things. As long as we have the Holy Spirit in us, we will be in a constant battle with ourselves and the world around us. But don’t let it discourage you, because Jesus has given us the strength to overcome any challenge (John 16:33).

So how do you win those every-moment battles? How can you overcome the temptation to neglect your physical or spiritual or emotional health?

Well, just like wars are won through through smaller battles, your daily battles should be conquered with small victories. Instead of focusing on the big picture which seems unconquerable, focus on the choice you have to make right now.

Should I eat that handful of M&Ms even though I know it will hurt my blood sugar? Should I not take a break from my daily work because I have too much to do? Should I skip my exercise because it’s too much trouble?

None of those are earth-shattering questions. No answer to any of those questions will shake the world off its axis. But for those questions, there is a right answer and a wrong answer for you. No, the world won’t end if you eat the M&Ms, but it’s not the wisest choice you can make.

Living healthy is a daily battle, and the only way you’ll win is seeking wisdom to face the questions. That’s how you win those hourly battles—by making good choices. And you learn how to make good choices from God’s word. (1 Peter 1:13-16)

Ultimately, the choice is yours. You get to decide what you do, what you eat, where you go, how you act. God has given us that freedom. But if you choose a course of action without wisdom, you open yourself up to the consequences.

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love the big picture of life, I can’t win at life on my own strength. I need God’s help. Frankly, I can’t even win in an hourly battle without God’s Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Nobody can.

But the truth is: God’s given us everything we need to live a victorious life (2 Timothy 1:7).

What choice do you have to make right now? What does God say about it? Have you even asked Him? If you haven’t, there’s your problem. He wants to help. So give Him a chance and see what happens.

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A second place pumpkin from the 2013 Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Celebrate the small victories

When was the last time you had a bad day? And I don’t mean a bad day as in a horrible, no-good, really bad kind of a day. I mean a bad day as in just a not-good day. Where something went wrong. Where people let you down. Where bad drivers made you grumpy.

It doesn’t have to be a day of epic badness to put you in a bad mood. Sometimes just one thing can go wrong, and it may not even be a huge problem. Those days are more common, I think, than the others. Just a bad day. And I hope that you are in a place in your life where your good days outnumber your bad days. Even though it may not feel like it, they probably do.

So if we honestly have more good days than bad ones, why do the bad days feel so overwhelming? Could it be we just don’t know how to celebrate the good days when we have them?

Today’s verse is Zechariah 4:10.

A second place pumpkin from the 2013 Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

A second place pumpkin from the 2013 Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

I thought this verse was interesting because this is God talking to the prophet Zechariah, telling him to be sure not to discount small things. And I think that’s really relevant to our lives right now.

You don’t need to wait for a huge accomplishment to celebrate something. I’m not sure where that concept came from. Every day, I know something happens in each of our lives that’s worth celebrating. No, it may not be earth shattering. It may not change the world. Maybe you didn’t win first place, but you still won something. It means something in your life. And it might even mean something in the lives of people around you. So you should celebrate.

Did you get through a month without a speeding ticket? Celebrate!

Did you make it a week without eating something you’re not supposed to? Celebrate! (with a stick of celery, of course)

Did you get through a day without strangling that one person at work? Celebrate!

Whatever small victory you’ve achieved in your life, take the time to mark it down. It doesn’t have to be a huge affair. It doesn’t even have to include others, although that always makes it more fun. Celebrate the quiet victories in your life, and then when the bad days roll around again, you’ll remember the good days better.

It’s not wrong or indulgent to celebrate, especially when you’re celebrating something that God has done in your life. Actually, that’s encouraged! The more we celebrate God’s work in our hearts, the better!

I mean, how many Christ-followers do you know celebrate the day they accepted Christ? What about the day they got baptized? What about the day that God answered that desperate prayer to find your keys?

Do we celebrate those things? Do we mark those things down? If we don’t, how do we expect to remember them? And if we can’t remember them, it’s no wonder it feels like our bad days are overwhelming.

So what has God done for you today? What small prayer has He answered? What quiet miracle has He done? Don’t let it slip by unnoticed. Don’t let it pass you without acknowledging it. Even if you just stop for a moment to take a photograph or write a paragraph or tell somebody about it.

Just celebrate.

And when you start celebrating the small things God does for you, you might be surprised at how often you end up celebrating.