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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Don’t be afraid, even if you can’t see what’s coming

We’ve got a new batch of kittens at Safe Haven Farm–seven of them! And other than several of them having some issues with runny eyes, they’re all healthy and hilarious. Yesterday I went out to play with them, and I had to laugh. It was a particularly windy day, and every time a gust of wind would come along, all seven would scurry into the shadows of the garage again. When the wind would stop blowing, they’d creep out to play some more, until the wind gusted again. Then they’d scatter.

Being afraid of the wind in Kansas is going to limit their experiences, because it’s always windy here. Eventually they’ll learn not to run in fear when the wind blows, but I couldn’t help but think about how strange it must be. If you’d never felt wind before, it would be pretty scary. You can’t see it, but it can knock you clean over if you aren’t paying attention.

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 3:22.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

When the children of Israel were preparing to go into the land God had promised them, after they’d been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God turned command of the army over to Joshua. Moses had done his job. And this was one of the messages God left with him: that the people shouldn’t be afraid of what they would encounter on the other side of the Jordan River because God would be there fighting for them.

And that’s a promise God kept over and over again.

We all face moments in our lives when we’re uncertain about what’s coming. In those moments, I always feel like I have some invisible enemy that’s going to sneak up on me when I least expect it. None of us knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s difficult to face a day sometimes when you don’t know where you’ll be at the end of it. Some people don’t know if they’ll still have a bed to sleep in. Some people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.

None of us know what’s coming. Like the Children of Israel who’d never seen the land they were going into, we face troubles and frustrations on a daily basis that go above our heads. There are circumstances and situations that we’re not prepared for. There are confrontations and accusations we have to face that we don’t know how to respond to.

It’s all unknown and uncertain, and there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. But what God told the Children of Israel back then is the same thing He’s saying to us know. You may not know what’s coming, but He does. And He isn’t passively sitting on the sidelines judging our performance. God is actively involved in our lives and in our world, and He will fight for us.

Granted, if you want God to fight for you, you need to be on His side, which means you need to be doing what He says is right. If you’re there, then you have nothing to fear. If you’re not there? You might want to think about getting there.

Just because I can’t see what’s coming doesn’t mean I should fear it. Most of my future is completely uncertain, but I will choose not to be afraid for one reason and one reason alone–my God is certain. I belong to Him, and He will fight my battles for me.

Lighthouse on Bolivar Island from Galveston Ferry - Galveston, TX

Even good soldiers get tired

Life can feel like a never-ending battle. Somedays, I think it is. I love the television show 24, and while I have never had a day as bad as Jack Bauer’s, I can identify with him because the storytelling is somewhat reminiscent of real life. You have good days; and you have bad days. You have days when you make progress, when forward momentum is possible; then you have days when you go backward, where it’s just a struggle to survive.

And I don’t know about you, but I get tired of fighting. I get tired of trying to stand up under the heavy weight of responsibility I have. And those days where no matter how hard I fight I can’t win, I can despair pretty easily, I’m sorry to say.

I was feeling so blue the other day, just tired and weary. On days like that I try to remember that God can do anything and nothing is too big for Him. But even as I was remembering how powerful God is as I was driving into work, I just couldn’t shake the worn-out feeling. I just wondered if I was doing what I was supposed to do, if I’m living the way I’m supposed to live, working where I’m supposed to work.

When I get tired and I feel like I can’t fight anymore, I start to despair and wonder if I’m going the wrong direction. And as I was driving, a song came over the radio that I’d heard many times. And when it released, it meant a lot to me, but that morning, it really struck me. The stong is “Strong Tower” by Kutless. And it comes from a verse in Scripture, and if you’ve ever heard the song, you know it’s powerful.

Lighthouse on Bolivar Island from Galveston Ferry - Galveston, TX

Lighthouse on Bolivar Island from Galveston Ferry – Galveston, TX

Proverbs 18:10.

The name of the Lord is a strong fortress;
    the godly run to him and are safe.

I don’t retreat. Like ever.

I rarely back down in situations where I feel like I need to be strong, and especially when it comes to Scripture. I don’t like conflict, and if I suspect someone wants to start a fight about it, I’ll generally back off. But when it comes to issues in life or at work or just in general living, I don’t falter.

I’ve always lived with a “good soldier” mentality for a Christian. 2 Timothy 2:3 says: “Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” And I’ve tried to do that. Good soldiers don’t complain. Good soldiers don’t give up. Good soldiers never run away.

But even good soldiers get tired.

Independence is a good thing. Not relying on other people is a good thing. But it’s not the best thing. I’m an independent person; I think I’ve said that before. But I have a terrible habit of trying to do everything all by myself. I have this deep-seated fear that if I ask someone for help, they’ll think I’m weak or that I can’t take care of myself.

But that’s not the case. Life is a battle, and if you belong to Christ, you are one of God’s soldiers. And we are called to do warfare, not with people but with the spiritual forces that run rampant in our world. We have to fight it every day, and not just the influences of Satan in other people but also in our own lives. And we can’t do it alone.

We need each other. And we need God. And on those days when the battle is just too much, God is a strong tower we can run to for rest and safety and healing. And if He didn’t expect to need Him, He wouldn’t have it available to us.

And I’m sure this is elementary, but it’s the simple truths that mean the most. And as I was driving that one day, listening to this song, I guess I just realized that it’s okay to step back and admit that I’m tired and tell God that I need help. I don’t have to power through every circumstance and every challenge and fight to the bitter end when I have no strength left. That’s not the way we’re supposed to fight. We’re supposed to rely on God for His strength. We’re supposed to remember where our strength comes from to begin with.

So don’t hesitate to run to Him if you need a break. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s good to remember that we can’t do everything. Step back and stop trying to fight. Get off the front lines. And just have a conversation with Him. Get our your Bible and start reading. Or listen to music that praises Him. And I guarantee you’ll find something that will encourage you and that will remind you that God really does know what He’s doing.

War

Did you know that we’re fighting a war? It’s a war that’s been raging for thousands of years, and anyone who believes in Christ is a soldier in it. Satan has been struggling with God for thousands of years. It’s a war that we can’t really see, though, so it’s easy to forget about it. And the combatants are the stuff of science fiction movies — demons and such — so they are easy to dismiss. But just because we forget or refuse to believe that a war is being fought all around us doesn’t make it any less real.

I was told once that our lives are a war and every day is a new battle which we either win or lose.

Please forgive another popular culture reference. I’m a huge fan of the show 24. Every season, Jack Bauer saves the nation in a 24-hour span of time, and every episode (which is one hour out of that 24-hour span) he wins a battle against terrorists or he loses a battle. Like in one episode, the woman he’s come to love is killed. That’s a loss. But in another episode he kills the man responsible and finds the information he needs to win the war. That’s a win.

Life is very much like that.

Every day we have a choice to either do what God has called us to do or to ignore what God wants and do what we want. Our actions and our choices will determine if we win the battles we face every day. It can be daunting, though, because sometimes the battles we face are difficult. There can be hard choices, and sometimes it’s easier to lie. Sometimes it’s easier to cheat. Sometimes it’s easier to be selfish. Sometimes it’s easier to just do what feels right. But battles are never supposed to be easy. Even the dictionary defines the word battle as a hostile encounter or engagement between opposing military forces. There’s nothing easy about battle. There’s nothing easy about war. So what makes us think that the easy way out is the right way out?

I know that I have lost more than my fair share of battles for a variety of reasons. But every day is a new day, and God’s mercy is new every morning. And when I wake up I try to remember that and set my sights on winning the battle for the new day.

But no matter how many battles I win or lose, it’s very encouraging to know that God has already won the war. The battles that we face today are just minor skirmishes while we’re waiting for God to come back and get us.

I love what Romans 8:35, 37 say.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Not just victory. Overwhelmning victory. And it’s ours through Christ.

How we fight our battles here on earth will determines the blessings we have here and in the life to come, but no matter how many times we fail (and, boy, do we all fail) God has already won the war. He loves us and He saved us, and through Him the victory is already ours. Satan is just throwing a temper tantrum right now because he can’t have his way and he knows it.

But there will come a day (soon) when we won’t have to fight anymore. When all the battles will end and we can enjoy life the way it was meant to be.

But until then, don’t let down. The Bible tells us how to live, so we should do as it says and keep fighting for what is right, no matter how difficult it might be. God will always make a way for us to do the right thing. And on the days when we lose, there’s no shame in seeking help to get back on our feet. Everyone loses battles.

And whether you win or lose, God still loves you. And that’s pretty encouraging.