We’ve been through a season at our church that has us a little challenged. Messages of late have been what I like to call, ‘victory’ messages. They often describe the Christian life as a battle, with God waging war on our behalf, conquering the forces of darkness/evil that are coming against us. Usually those forces display themselves in the form of,
Financial loss or hardship
Familial turmoil/wayward children
It’s a litany of issues common to mankind in any era of history. In the 70’s when the kids of Christian parents began cohabitating without the benefit of marriage, it equated the end of family as we knew it. Now, we have gender and sexual identity moving into that space, decrying the same mantra.
High, volume is a hallmark of these sermons and prayers. I’m not as moved by ‘shouting prayers’ that many embrace, when casting out the forces of darkness in their various forms. Been there, seen that, done it, own several of those tees.
The battles still come…
I never thought God needed me to yell at him, or that the devil needed to hear his name rebuked loudly. I lean toward the idea that the enemy is like my Cairn terrier. The more attention he gets the more he wants. And he’ll do anything to get attention! He’ll even BEHAVE! (which is the goal for my terrier).
The main theme of these messages is that Jesus/God will give us victory over our problems. He has come so that we can be strong in the face of them and conquer them in his name. We can have faith that God is powerful. We can endure and find joy while conquering in his name.
I don’t disagree!
But somehow this message feels incomplete. If we can have all this victory, then why do the bad things still happen, even when we’re claiming victory over them? It leads me to ask this question…
What does victory look like?
Often, I come away from victory sermons feeling that victory = the absence of problems, especially the ones listed above. It may not be the intent of the sermon so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. But the absence of problems is entirely contrary to scripture, especially in the NT.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” Jn. 16:33 NIV
Directly from Jesus’ lips…we will have troubles. No hesitation or evasion there. We can take heart, he overcame the world, but he never promised troubles would go away.
Praying for victory is challenging for me, it doesn’t feel specific enough. And, I tend to accept that I need to bow to the sovereignty of God in difficult circumstances. I seek to hear his voice about my next move. In my spiritual journey, there is always a next step to take in order to work through troubles. I am constantly reminded that this life is,
The only hell I will ever experience
Which leads me to another thought. Why should I be any better than anyone else in life that I would be exempt from the the common problems known to humans?
I might have to come back to that one…
Defining victory is something I need to do, remember and practice on a regular basis so that I’m not deceived into thinking that I’m not experiencing it. So for the sake of this post, let me share a few of my latest victories, from the view in the cheap seats…
We’ve been mulling over some life decisions lately. I kept muttering some prayers about them too. I didn’t even think that I was praying but I guess God heard them because he answered me in a distinct way.
We’ve also been walking through a season of mental illness for about 2 years. Praying and persevering through the season with tears, doctors, and a lot of patience. While I can’t say that all of it is whole, I will say that breakthrough happened and God took one more chain off of my husband’s Fear O’ Meter.
And after many years of wishing and praying, we are anticipating the birth of our first grandchild this month.
“Rejoice in the Lord Always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
These verses are ones that we have relied on for decades when times of trouble come. That guiding peace that leads us to Jesus when we are at the end of ourselves. It washes over us in waves, lets us sleep at night in spite of what we’re facing. It promises that God hears, knows and will answer in his time, gently too. It may not make sense to others, but God’s peace has never led us astray.
He is as near as the mention of his name, even as near as my muttering…
And when troubles rain down like flood waters, that peace keeps our hearts directed toward Jesus, and our minds focused on his person. We can leave it all at his feet knowing that he has already won our victory.
Last night as we were discussing our next step in life, Bruce said this…
“All God asks is that we be willing, available and obedient and he will put us in places where we experience him in the richest and most unexpected ways”
Sweet, sweet Victory!