I think there is a part of us that believes that winning looks glorious and triumphant. And that comes from what we watch in the world and from personal experience. The stadium erupting in cheers, the photo finish, the big bonus, flowers, a toast. All of these things that we associate with the celebration of a victory. It’s exhilarating and there is very little like it in life.
I remember one time in 2004, my Dad, Uncle Chuck, my brother and I had gone to a Jets game. It was the last regular game of the season. Very cold. But a win and another team’s loss would mean that the Jets would make the playoffs. It was not certain so it would be a dramatic afternoon – facing Brett Favre and the Packers. Well, sometime in the late third quarter the final score from the other key game was posted and the Jets were winning so more than 75,000 people just started cheering and celebrating. It was near-deafening and electric! Isn’t that what victory feels like?
But for the life of faith, it often looks a lot different. No stadiums cheering, in fact, often no one cheering. This is in part because the spiritual arena is often solitary. The choice to refrain from temptations, the overcoming of a fear and other like these – most people don’t see or know about. But still victories none the less.
It also looks different because it doesn’t look like a victory. In fact, I would say personally, it doesn’t even feel like a victory. Take the cross for example. Completely does not look like a victory. Jesus says “it is finished (completed)” and in fact despite the shame, destruction and death – it was the most important victory of all time. We need to remember this in our battles and struggles as well. Scripture helps describe it…
“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” James 1:12 The Message
Winning or victory often in this life of faith is to endure or stand. “Still standing” doesn’t sound very glorious or euphoric, does it?
But you know this. If you or a loved one has endured cancer and its treatment and are still alive – you have endured. If you have struggled through job loss and didn’t lose yourself – you have endured. If you have hung on through the worst time in your life – and still believe that God has a plan to use you – you have stood and endured. And of course there are many more examples of quiet, humble victories that give glory to God and prove us faithful.
And it isn’t just fighting disease and core identity battles. Unfortunately, there are other enemies as well. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).” Notice how it doesn’t say that we get to crush the evil or evil one(s). We put on the armor to what…stand our ground – in other words remain faithful.
You and I can imagine this in all sorts of ways. The husband or wife the resists having an affair to stay faithful and stand his or her ground. The business person who sees an opportunity to exploit a client (without getting caught) and stands his or her ground. The young person who goes to a party where there are drugs and alcohol and leaves at the risk of losing friends – standing his or her ground.
I would love for it to be like some kind of Lord of The Rings – Return of the King victory of crushing evil altogether and that a new era of peace begins. But we don’t live in Middle-Earth, we live in real-time on the Earth!
But not alone. The Holy Spirit is always present in these struggles and battles. And God’s Word – all the armor there for us – to help us stand.
And there probably won’t be a parade or thousands of people cheering or a bouquet or a standing ovation. But the Lord will be smiling and has crown waiting for those that stand and endure over a lifetime and that really is enough and what this life of faith is about. And also think about the great witness it is for those around you – and how encouraged others will be. Communities, peoples and nations have been moved and transformed by the “standing and enduring” of one or a few individuals.
“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle,” said Plato. I know you are fighting some kind of battle today. It might be against a disease. Maybe it is resisting some kind of temptation or addiction. Perhaps it is an ethical matter at work, at a church or in your family. It could be standing up to a bully or abusive person or system. It might be that you are the one who has to shed light on, or reveal corruption. Maybe your doubts and fears about life have been overwhelming your faith and the time to make a stand has come.
Please know that to win today – you just need to stand and endure. I am praying for you to have and experience that strength at this moment.
- In the battle you are facing today, what will standing through it look like?
- What are some other times in your life when you have stood and endured? What was unique about those experiences?
- How can you encourage others who are facing great battles?