The victor’s timetable and my personal agenda

olympic-games-1608127_1280I’m not a big sports fan. Never have been. Something about being naturally clumsy and the least competitive person on the planet. But, oddly enough, I do enjoy watching the Olympics. This year was quite a year for Team USA, and not just for our swimming (that Katie Ledecky, man) and gymnastics teams.

We’ve got over 100 medals, around 40 of which are gold. That’s outrageous. Granted, the U.S. had more than 500 athletes competing this year. That makes a difference. But that doesn’t change how cool it is to get to hear the national anthem so many times in so many different sports.

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles

What I find most interesting is that after I watch the U.S. win at the Olympics, I often feel like a champion. But the athletes are champions. They worked hard. They sacrificed. They risked everything they had invested to put their skills to the test against the top athletes in the world, and they came out on top. They deserve the medals they wear. So how does that translate into me feeling like a winner?

Every Team USA athlete who competed in the Olympics this year was a representative of his or her country. He or she went to the Olympics to represent me (broadly speaking). So when he or she wins, America wins. I win. We send the best of our best (and this year, I feel like I can actually say our best truly are the best and not just in their physical skill but in their character as well), and when they win, we get to claim the victory with them, even though they’re the ones who did the work.

Faith works the same way

That’s basically what God did. There was a battle that needed to be won, and all our futures hung in the balance. So He sent His best—His only Son—to fight for us, to take our place and our punishments. And Jesus won. So because He won, we all won (Romans 8:37). Or, at least, we all have the opportunity to win. There is the matter of choosing a side, of course.

It’s done. It’s over. The war is finished, and the victory is God’s, and by extension ours, if you are a follower of Christ. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still face daily battles.

All those Olympic athletes had to come back to the real world after Rio. They had to leave behind the battle fields they were used to and forge into an unknown future, possibly in areas and fields they know little about. Even the G.O.A.T. has to pay bills.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Even though it feels like we’re the ones fighting, victory is always God’s.[/su_pullquote]

Every day is still a battle. But does that mean we’re on our own? Never. (Deuteronomy 31:8) God says over and over again that He’ll never leave us. He’ll never make us face our battles alone. But there’s something we’ve got to remember, folks. Even though it feels like we’re the ones fighting, victory is always God’s.

He gives us the strength to face the challenges of the day. He gives us the energy to keep fighting when we feel like we want to quit. He helps us stand up when we fall down, and He gives us a reason to keep pushing long after our personal motivation has run dry. He’s the only one big enough to turn the tide of a battle in His favor.

So because victory is His, that means we have to wait for Him to achieve it.

Victory doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t win an Olympic medal on a whim or by accident. Competing in the Olympics takes years of practice and hard work, strategy and intense concentration, and fierce, intentional choices. Do you think winning a battle is different? It takes time. It takes effort. It takes dedication, passion, and, yes, sometimes even failure. Or maybe it just feels like failure, because often failure is just another opportunity to rise to the challenge.

Because of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Tianna Bartoletta, Amanda Elmore, Virginia Thrasher, Helen Maroulis, Connor Fields, Brady Ellison, David Boudia, Daryl Homer, and so many others who won a medal (or medals) at Rio, I can say I am a citizen of a winning country. I belong to a nation that allows people to chase their dreams, to work hard to make their dreams a reality. And even though I’ve never swam a competitive lap in my life, never ran any distance, never shot with any accuracy, and only mastered the belly flop as a form of diving, I get to enjoy victory because all those people and others achieved it for me.

micah7-7Because of Jesus, I’m a citizen of Heaven. I’m a child of God, with free access to His throne, invited to approach Him whenever I need Him. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have to fear what I don’t understand. Jesus won my battles for me.

But Michael Phelps didn’t swim faster because I asked Him to. Virginia Thrasher didn’t hit those targets with her air rifle because I told her it was time. All of those athletes competed at their own speed, their own rates, and according to their own plans. So why do I think Jesus is going to be any different?

Victory isn’t mine. It’s His. And that means I have to wait for His timing instead of pushing my own agenda.

[su_pullquote]Victory isn’t mine. It’s His. And that means I have to wait for His timing instead of pushing my own agenda.[/su_pullquote]

I don’t like waiting. Once I know the direction I’m pointed, I want to forge ahead without looking back. And while that may be an admirable trait at times, when victory isn’t up to me, that sort of impatience can spell disaster.

We all have a choice when it comes to obtaining victory, even if we’re not the ones fighting for it. You can try to fight for yourself, sure. But that will be like a regular human being trying to race Michael Phelps in a pool. You can try to win, but you aren’t going to. Sorry to break it to you, folks, but that’s just not going to happen.

So if you can’t fight for yourself, you have to fall back on the other option. You have to let someone else fight for you. And that means you have to wait for them to make a move. Waiting isn’t fun, but if the person you’re cheering for has your best interests in mind, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me. Micah 7:7

Advertisements

If I’m a winner, why do I live like a loser?

conquerors-warriors-winners-discouragement_1170x350

I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure at life. It’s not even worth trying something new because I’ll ultimately screw it up and let everyone down. Ever feel like that? I’ve had a month of feeling like that, which is utterly ridiculous because it’s been a great month. A successful month. A month full of positive momentum. Yet emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I’ve been stuck in this unending quagmire of discouragement.

God is gentle with people many times. He calls to us softly in that still, small voice of His. He beckons us closer to Him with promises of peace and assurances of unconditional love.

Well, I’m not people. And gentle promises and soft speeches rarely do anything for me except make me suspicious, and that’s probably a character flaw. But thankfully my God knows how to talk to me. He’s my Shepherd, and He knows how to get my attention. And usually it involves a two-by-four.

I was out on my morning walk yesterday, and I’d started the morning slow and draggy, uninspired, discouraged, beaten down for no real reason. I just felt mopey. But I’d decided to start walking in the mornings, so I got ready to go. To make matters worse, my MP3 player died for no reason, which put me in a bad mood. Walking my two miles was going to be harder without something to listen to.

So I just chalked it up to the kind of day I was going to have, and I started down our old loose-gravel road, struggling against a hard south wind. But because I didn’t have anything else to listen to, I just decided to tell God about all my problems.

The whole two miles, I just told Him what was on my heart and how sad I felt and alone and discouraged. Like nothing I do matters. Like nothing I try succeeds. And somewhere along that two-mile stretch, WHAM! This verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

That’s Romans 8:37, if you care to know. And it echoed in my empty brain for about five minutes while I walked, stunned into silence. The realization that accompanied left me shaking. Because if I believe that, if I truly believe that God has made me more than a conqueror, I should be living like it. But I wasn’t. I was living as though I’d been defeated.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?[/su_pullquote]

It’s so hard to see the light sometimes. It’s so hard to focus on everything that’s right, especially when you feel overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong. That’s when discouragement hits. That’s when it takes all your strength to pull yourself out of bed in the morning. That’s when you tell yourself that you can’t win, can’t succeed, can’t do anything right. You’re choosing to see all the obstacles in your path instead of the bright, shining path God has opened up for you.

I am a conqueror.

Not will be a conqueror. Not used to be a conqueror. I AM a conqueror. Not in my own strength or abilities or talents. Not by any gift or virtue I possess but through Jesus. God has made me a conqueror through His power. So why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?

Maybe that bright shining path Jesus provided only stretches out for the current day, and I can’t see tomorrow. Isn’t that all right? Isn’t it enough to know that you have what you need for right now? It’s difficult to live that way. It’s hard for this control freak to wrap her brain around it, but there’s no better way to live.

Why be satisfied with the little shack you can build with your own hands when God wants to help you build a mansion?

Against all odds, God has provided for me today, and He has promised to provide for me tomorrow. Do I really need more than that? Do you?

No more choosing to see the obstacles. No more choosing to see what’s wrong. No, that doesn’t mean I ignore them, but I can acknowledge an obstacle without letting it discourage me. God has made me a conqueror. God has made me victorious. Through Him, I can do impossible things.

And so can you.

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.