Hard Won Victories

Life throws us the unexpected at us. As a Christian there have been times when I’ve thought, “That shouldn’t happen to me! Why do hard things happen?” As I’ve grown older (not old!!!) I’ve started to put 2 and 2 together. As a child of God, I’m not exempt from attack – I have become the point of attack for I am a threat to the plans of the enemy.

But before I got to this point, I related more than I care to admit with God’s people in the book of Numbers. My daily devotional readings recently brought me to the story in Numbers where spies had been sent into the Promised Land to “spy it out” and bring a report back. Consider what the nation of Israel had been through to get to this point:

1. 400 years of bondage to Egypt.

2. A miraculous series of events that brought Pharaoh to release them.

3. A footrace through the Red Sea to escape the armies of Pharaoh.

4. Witnessing God close the sea on top of their enemy.

5. Miraculous provisions of food.

All of these events were dovetailed with the wandering hearts of God’s people and acts of blatant disobedience and doubt. Once they finally found themselves on the edge of their Promised Land and heard the report of the spies that there were “giants in the land,” they spent the night “weeping aloud and they cried all night.” They even said that it would’ve been better to “return to Egypt.”

In reading that story, I used to criticize the people in this account for their reaction because I didn’t understand that I, too, have mirrored this reaction in my own life when bad things have happened. God had spoken something to me (I thought He had anyway!) but life brought me so many challenges that I quickly forgot what God had said. Wouldn’t it have been better for me to return to life as it was before the promise God gave me? The battles are too intense – no reward could be worth this pain!

As the story goes, the people didn’t enter the land because they doubted (save Joshua and Caleb who did enter in after the rest who doubted died off). I wonder how often I’ve not entered into what God has for me not because the timing was wrong (which is the case sometimes) but because my attitude was – I was unbelieving.

When the battle rages, I’m learning to understand that it will rage according to the greatness of the promise.

Great victories come from great battles.

Lea Peters

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Change

Change is never easy. In fact, the 5 top most stressful life events have to do with change of situation:

1. Death of a loved one.

2. Divorce.

3. Moving.

4. Major Illness.

5. Job loss.

Each of these situations has to do with a change of life circumstance and the adjustment that naturally accompanies that change. We, as human beings, don’t like change. We like our rhythm, we like our ways of doing things – because they are comfortable and we can predict with a good deal of accuracy what tomorrow will bring as long as we are flowing in our ways of doing things.

Jesus never promised us a changeless life. In fact, He promised a life full of change as we allow His Word and Spirit to permeate our beings. There are times we cry out for “change” but when that change comes, we chafe against it for it challenges us to change those things that we hold near and dear.

“I like worship this way.”

“I can come worship on Sunday only.”

“Please don’t talk about prayer and reading the Bible any longer.”

“Giving is so Old Testament.”

When Jesus made His final and famous entry into Jerusalem, He was celebrated! People laid palm branches before Him as He entered the city; they were crying out “Hosanna!” What a glorious day! This joy was short-lived as He began to challenge people to change – He cursed a tree that didn’t produce fruit (I’m sure much to the chagrin of the owners of the tree), He chased money changers from the temple (taking away their revenue), and from there things went downhill quickly:

Mark 11:18a NLT “When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill Him…”

The end result was the crucifixion – at least those who put Him to death thought it was. After three days, their perceived victory was turned around at the resurrection. The tragedy of this was the fact that God’s people didn’t recognize Him when He came to challenge them to change.

This pattern: Celebration + Challenge + Crucifixion = Resurrection seems to repeat itself. We celebrate a great service or meeting where people feel good! However, when a challenge to reach beyond what is comfortable is presented, we want to put that challenge to death. Finally, those who can go beyond and embrace the message, there is a resurrection.

Where are we in life as He has entered into our lives? Are we celebrating His entry or are we plotting to remove Him as He challenges us? Are we repeating history? Don’t make the mistake of those in ages past and miss the move of God for the sake of what is comfortable or reasonable. If we behave as they did, we risk missing out on the resurrection!

Come, Lord Jesus, change me.