Preparing for Victory
Preparing for Victory
I don’t want to spend my valuable life and time on this planet feeling like I am not much of a success as a Christian. I don’t want to spend year after year with a big question mark over my eternal destiny. When it comes to living the Christian life and ending up hearing those oh so meaningful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), we don’t have to cross our fingers and just hope that it will all work out. We can presently be victorious over sin and temptation, and not just at some vague point in the future. We can currently have confidence in our relationship with God. Paul did not write that one day he hoped to be confident about his relationship with God, or hoped to be able to resist the temptations of life. Rather, he had success and confidence in the here and now.
- “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
- “How to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
- “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
- “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Removing the Obstacles
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
In the Hebrew letter, one sin that often has entangled God’s people is the sin of not trusting Him (Hebrews 3:12; 18-19; 4:2). Yet, any sin that we allow to remain in our lives will send out tentacles, roots or runners into every aspect of our lives.
Resident Christian or Nomadic Christian?
Are we resident Christians or nomadic Christians? Have we put down some serious roots into this earthly existence? Believers who were successful in living for God in the past, viewed their time on earth as being like a pilgrim or nomad.
- “Having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
- “But as it is, they desire a better country” (Hebrews 11:16)
- “For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (11:10).
- “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
Facing Our Death So we Can Live
In the book Living Life Backwards, the writer David Gibson contends that the premise of the book of Ecclesiastes is that accepting death is the first step in learning to live. “I am convinced that only a proper perspective on death provides the truest perspective on life. Living in the light of your death will help you to live wisely and freely and generously” (p. 11). “Ecclesiastes also makes a very simple point: life is complex and messy, sometimes brutally so, but there is a straightforward way to look at the mess. The end will put it all right. The end when we stand before God as our Creator and Judge, will explain everything. Left to our own devices, we tend to live life forward. One day follows another, and weeks turn into months and months into years. We do not know the future, but we plan and hope and dream of where we will be, and what we would like to be doing, and whom we might be with. We live forward. Ecclesiastes teaches us to live life backward. It encourages us to take the one thing in the future that is certain, our death and work backward from that point into all the details and decisions and heartaches of our lives and to think about them from the perspective of the end. It is the destination that makes sense of the journey. If we know for sure where we are heading, then we can know for sure what we need to do before we get there” (p. 12). Thus the book starts by reminding us that our generation will go the way of all previous generations and the only thing we will leave behind is the earth (1:4). Then, at the end of the book we are reminded that the spirit will return to God (12:7), and that we will stand before God who will bring our every move into judgment, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). May I suggest that facing up to one’s own death and accountability before God can be very liberating:
- I no longer look for my happiness in material things: 2:1-11
- I no longer make physical pleasure a top priority, for it is short-lived.
- I realize that I will be condemned for sin, that it will hurt other people (Ecclesiastes 9:18), and that the pleasure it will provide will quickly vanish.
- I put people ahead of possessions and position.
- I am not intimidated by what the culture thinks of me.
- I am freed from trying to please men.
- I am willing to be different, stand alone on what is right, and ignore the various fads that grip our culture.
- I don’t fret over injustices because I know that God will sort it all out in the end.
Freed from “Let’s Pretend”
Many people spend their lives trying to avoid the reality of Ecclesiastes 1:4; 12:13-14; 2:11 and many other passages. They play a game. Honestly, many Christians get caught up in playing this game just like everyone else in life. “Let’s pretend that if we change jobs, or emigrate to the sun, we won’t experience the humdrum tedium and ordinariness of life. Let’s pretend that if we move to a new house, we’ll be happier and will never want to move again. Let’s pretend that if we end one relationship and start a new one, we won’t ever feel trapped. Let’s pretend that if we were married, or weren’t married, we would be content. Let’s pretend that if we had more money, we would be satisfied. Let’s pretend that time is always on our side to do the thing we want to do and become the people we want to be. Let pretend we can break the cycle of repetition and finally arrive in a world free from weariness” (Gibson, p. 29). Yet, Jesus checked this human tendency when He reminded us that we cannot hold on to anything forever (Matthew 6:19-21). We start holding on the physical things and pleasures of this world too closely. We begin to put them ahead of the needs of our soul. We start to rely upon them for happiness and fulfillment. We start to measure how successful we are as human beings by the attainment of earthly goals. We start to feel safe and secure when surrounded with our possessions and assets.
Freed From “That Will Fill Me Up”: 1:8
New pleasures and things will always be coming down the pike. Yet I already know the following truth. There is nothing earthly which can fill me up so that I would say, “This is it. I am full. I have seen it all, said it all, heard it all. I have given out and taken in all that I can” (Gibson, p. 25). Therefore, I am not going to fall for the lie that a certain possession, status symbol, possession, pleasure or human being will meet my every need.
Freed From “I Will Be Remembered”: 1:11
Therefore, I will not sacrifice my relationship with God for a career, earthly accolades, position or power. For, even the famous and their deeds are forgotten.
Build on Past Success
“Nothing brings such pure peace and quiet joy at the close as a well-lived past” (James Russell Miller).
That is, preparing for victory is a building process. Resisting one temptation gives you the confidence to resist another. Getting rid of one bad habit in your life gives you the motivation to change something else that needs changing. Such also reminds us that God was right. I can live without and be happy without yielding to a sinful pleasure. Crossing one more thing off your to do list builds momentum. The opposite is equally true. Procrastination, putting things on the back burner only drains your resolve. Thus, living well today is a way of ensuring happiness in your earthly and eternal future.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017