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!

Love Never Fails (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 18, 2015)

If you’ve ever attended a wedding, then you know of the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. Starting in verse 4, Paul describes various characteristics of love: “Love is patient, love is kind …” He concludes the list in verse 8 with one of the most frequently misused Scriptures I’ve ever heard: “Love never fails.”

 

This passage is popular at weddings, obviously, because no one enters matrimony with the intention of ending it (except Prince Humperdinck, but he’s a conniving fictional character). Yet, if “love never fails,” then how do we explain divorce? I don’t think many divorcees would honestly say that they never loved their ex-spouse. Somewhere along the line, though, that love failed, so does that mean Scripture is wrong?

 

The problem is not with Scripture. We’re trying to read a vague English word (“love”) that we assume here to mean the kind of lovey-dovey love between a husband and wife, but the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 13:8 is actually “agape,” which refers to God’s love. That’s the kind of love that never fails! We humans fail all too often, but God’s love never, ever fails. Furthermore, if you look at that passage in context with the rest of the chapter, Paul isn’t even talking about marriage; he’s discussing spiritual gifts and how we should use our gifts in the spirit of God’s love, not for our own glory.

 

Please don’t interpret what I’ve just said to mean that I think marriage is trivial; it is ideal for a couple to stay in love for the rest of their lives. It’s just that if we don’t grasp the meaning of Paul’s words, then it’s very easy to make the leap from “love never fails” to “you are a failure because your love failed.” I don’t know about you, but as someone who has experienced such failure, it’s a huge relief to know that God’s love for me never diminishes, and my worth in his eyes goes light years beyond my failures.

 

As a sinful human being, I am adept at failing (there are multiple examples daily), but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. I’m a redeemed child of God! In case that doesn’t convince you, I encourage you to do a keyword search in the Bible using “God” and “love” – you’ll find 100+ references! No matter what your failures in life have been, God loves you always & forever.