Monday, September 3, 2018

When the Going Gets Tough

Over the last couple of weeks, I have experienced victory in an area of struggle. It's both encouraging and empowering. A little glimpse of victory with an acknowledgment of God's hand results in His glory and my edification.

The truth is, however, God is at work in my life whether I acknowledge it or not, whether I experience victory or defeat. As long as I'm fighting the fight--with or without evidence of winning--God's Spirit is evident. So often, we want the appearance and realization of victory, an absence of conflict, a perfect outcome over and above our circumstances. We just want _______ (fill in the blank). We're tired of struggling, losing, and not winning because we're set on the wrong goal. Our hearts long for perfection and eternity with God, for rest and fulfilled expectation. Instead, God desires surrender to His will, humility and endurance. These do not come easily, quickly, or permanently in this life.

As I read about Jesus' trials, crucifixion and burial today, the thing that stood out was not a repeated word or phrase, but the absence of one. Jesus did not fight against God's purpose. He did not demand His rights, defend Himself, argue, or attack. At other times, He simply slipped through the crowd or left. This time, knowing it was God's will, He submitted Himself to mistreatment, hardship, and persecution. It certainly did not look--to anyone--like He was experiencing victory in His Christian walk. But it was only in His most desperate circumstances that God was working out the greatest victory of all--His glory and our salvation.

Paul, who knew both victory and hardship, wrote this:

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)


But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:7-21)

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