When it feels like sin has the upper hand & you feel defeated, remember 1 Corinthians 15:57 – we are victorious through Christ!
We sang a song at church recently with the line, “Every victory is Yours.” It was a proclamation of praise to God for reigning victorious over the enemy, which usually brings imagery to my mind of how the Lord conquered death through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Verses like 1 Corinthians 15:57 remind us of his victory over sin and death.
This particular day, however, I was distracted by some frustrations that I was having with the kids. A couple of them had gotten into trouble in Sunday School for arguing with each other, which had turned into a shoving match, and then one of them made a mess and didn’t bother to clean it up. I was embarrassed, quite frankly. I just wanted one weekend where we could go to church and I didn’t have to worry about how anyone behaved. I feel like every time one of the kids causes trouble, it’s a reflection on me as a parent. Sometimes I just want to melt into the background and not have negative attention drawn to me.
As I sang that song, this prayer-thought occurred to me: “If every victory is Yours, then why do I feel like every setback is my personal failure?”
Proverbs 21:31 says that we can prepare ourselves for war, but the verse quickly points to the Lord as the source of battlefield victories. In this situation, I think it means that I should certainly train and discipline my children to be respectful and behave well (prepare them for battle against worldly influences), but when they make poor choices, I shouldn’t automatically take it personally. (That’s a lot easier said than done; is it not?!?)
I referenced a verse above from 1 Corinthians 15; the following verse (58) goes on to say, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (NLT). We face battles every day, and we won’t win all of them. The enemy wants to tear you down, humiliate you and incapacitate you, but don’t quit the fight. Stand firm in the knowledge that we serve a mighty, awesome God, and he is the ultimate victor!
I had an imaginary conversation with God this week, and it went something like this:
God: “So, what time do you want to meet for lunch today?”
Me: “Whenever, Lord.”
God: “Let’s say noon.”
Me: “It’s really crowded then. How about 11:30 a.m., instead?”
God: “What do you want to eat?”
Me: “Whatever, Lord.”
God: “Let’s have Thai.”
Me: “Eww, you know how sick I got in Thailand that one time. Besides, I don’t like curry.”
God: “But, I like Thai.”
Me: “Fine, which Thai restaurant do you want to go to?”
God: “The one in Thailand.”
God: “But, you said you’d follow me whenever, wherever, whatever.”
Me: “I meant anywhere but there, Lord.”
I know better than to say that I would never move someplace (Never say never!), but there are certainly spots on the globe that I would rather not go. No offense to the breathtaking terrain and colorful culture of Thailand, but if I had my druthers, I’d prefer to not go back. I became violently ill the one time I was there; consequently, the smell of curry makes my stomach churn, even to this day.
When we sing songs in church with lyrics like, “Where you go I’ll go,” or “I surrender all,” do we really mean it, or are we just giving lip-service to God? I don’t believe that God calls each of us to a life of poverty or compels us to move continents away from our extended families, but I think the point is that we are willing if he does call us, and that we are open to his voice. We are each gifted in unique ways (check out 1 Corinthians 12 and take Crosstraining 301 to learn more about spiritual gifts). He expects us to use those gifts to his glory, no matter where we are. Be assured, though, that our faith-walk does require sacrifice. It may not mean getting cholera and typhoid immunizations and relocating to South Asia, but it could mean inviting your grumpy co-worker to church or giving up an evening of television every couple of weeks to tutor at C4.
Whenever. Whatever. Wherever. Do you mean it?
(Originally posted January 29, 2012)
Does your life resemble more of the world or more of Christ? Read 1 Corinthians 3 and meditate on where things stand with you.
1 Corinthians 3 says that one sign of spiritual maturity is a lack of quarreling & jealousy. How does that match with your life right now?
I came across an old home video this week while looking through archived files on my computer. It was of my youngest kiddo eating in a highchair. He had just learned to pick up finger foods, and he was eating peas and Cheerios – complete with green mush on his chin. The kids had a big laugh watching the video, especially with my sing-song voice in the background praising him for being such a big boy and feeding himself.
With kids, we get excited about every little milestone, don’t we? We ooh and ahh about moving from milk to baby food, then finger foods, and finally table food using a fork and spoon. In some ways, this progression mirrors our spiritual development. We start out our new spiritual lives needing to be nourished with the simple truth of the gospel. Peter described it this way: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3, NIV). Yet, our development doesn’t (or shouldn’t!) stop there.
In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he scolded them by saying, “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NIV).
Likewise, the writer of Hebrews challenged readers for being unwilling to grow in faith: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14, NIV).
What, then, does it mean to be ready for solid food, spiritually speaking? Partly, it means that there should be evidence of our growth. We should seek out spiritual instruction that challenges us to stretch and grow even more. It also means that we should begin teaching, mentoring, and leading others to help them grow in faith.
In 1 Corinthians 13, why do you think Paul put so much emphasis on using our spiritual gifts in a context of love?