Victory is the Lord’s (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 23, 2015)

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!

Salt of the Earth

I have heard lots of sermons about Matthew 5:13 over the years, and the messages I can remember focused on the useful benefits of salt – particularly, how it makes food taste better and serves as a preservative. One message that I vaguely recall from my college years even included an unappetizing and detailed explanation of how salt was used in ancient times to preserve meat, jerky-style. The point, I believe, was that since we are “the salt of the earth,” our lives should be appealing (tasteful) to help draw others to Christ.

 

While I don’t disagree with that perspective, two things dawned on me recently that caused me to see Matthew’s analogy from a new angle. First, I have been trying to get rid of weeds that invaded our property during the summer, and one recommendation was to make a concoction out of vinegar and salt to spray on the area. The salt not only kills the plants, but it hinders the soil from growing anything ever again.

 

Second, we are just a couple of months away from the first snow of the season, which means the snow plows will be driving through town in the wee morning hours to clear the roads. The maintenance workers always spread coarse sand on the streets, instead of salt. Why? Because salt is corrosive to the paint and undercarriage of vehicles.

 

This seems like a mixed message. Salt is tasty and has valuable preservative properties, but it also has the ability to destroy. So, I wonder if part of our calling to be “the salt of the earth” is not just advice to live an appealing kind of life to those around us, but to be willing to take a stand – alone, if necessary – to combat the corrosive things of this world? (See Romans 12:1-2)

 

When the enemy plants invasive weeds in our lives and tries to choke out our spiritual growth, we can be “salt” to rid ourselves of those negative influences and stand in faith. Or, when we allow sin to take the driver’s seat instead of relying on the Lord, our prayer partners and Life groups can be “salt” to help us realize that sin is corroding our lives. Let’s go out this week and be “the salt of the earth” to encourage each other and to hold ourselves accountable.