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The Agony of Defeat

Oh, the agony of defeat!

First, it happened Thursday evening in our softball match-up. We lost the first game to Bentonville Church of Christ by a decent margin, but we were pounded the second game 26—3. Ouch! I’m guessing about nine other guys are wishing I just wouldn’t have brought it up.

Then, it happened again last night as the Razorbacks gave up a touchdown in the last couple of minutes of the game to lose to Alabama in a gut-wrenching defeat. I’m guessing a few hundred thousand fans are wishing I wouldn’t bring that up either.

So what do we learn from losing? First, we learn that it stinks! But we also learn to regroup, to sharpen and hone our skills, to get our heads back in the game, and to try a little harder next time.

God doesn’t want you living in spiritual defeat. He’s called you to be “more than a conqueror!” But the greatest spiritual conquerors I know have suffered some losses… and they have become all the better because of the lessons learned. So when you lose… learn! But strive for the victory today!

I Shall Arise

“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” -Micah 7:8

When I was rather young, I went sledding down Bowling Green’s “Hospital Hill” one snowy day with my brother and my Dad. I was so excited about taking my first run on my own, but something went terribly wrong. there was a snowdrift covering a stump and I hit it head on. The sled went down, I went up (and what goes up must come down) and I hit the ground and lay flat on my back. My wind was gone, I felt I couldn’t breathe, and I was panicking. In moments my brother and my Dad were there to check on me. But the instant they saw that I would survive, their concern turned to jubilation. They laughed! They laughed hard! And I must admit, it was probably funny.

Others often take our calamity lightly. Our pain and our suffering, to us, is always immense. We see the world from a darkened valley while the masses look on from the cliffs and mountain peaks. Our enemies especially take advantage of every opportunity to rejoice in our tragedies. But for the Christian there is a great promise – our calamities are but for a moment. Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah, knew what would befall Israel in a matter of decades. He knew of their coming captivity and the suffering they would endure under slavery to Babylon.

The nations around Israel could rejoice at her defeat, but Micah, speaking under inspiration of God gave warning to the nations. Rejoice not! We have not been destroyed, we shall rise! Darkness is inevitable, it will consume half of every day. Falling is part of life. But Micah reminds us that for all of the failures of the children of God, there will be a rising in the end. For the darkness we endure here, there is the light of God’s presence and the revelation of His promises. The future is bright, our hope endures. As children of the King, we shall rise and reign! Take courage, be hopeful, the end is not yet!

The Motivation of Sure Success

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” -1 Corinthians 15:57-58

When I was in Junior High, I had a Nintendo game system and a particular baseball game in which you could pre-program the statistics of your team to make them better. You were allowed a certain number of homeruns for the season and you divided them among your lineup as you felt best. I would stack the first seven batters with all of the statistics so that I would end up winning almost every game against the computer. In a 162-game season, I’d end up winning about 150 games! Cheating? You decide.

One thing I know is that the odds are already stacked in our favor. You may feel like Satan’s punching bag today, but God has already insured your success. Satan is defeated, or at least he is as good as defeated. When darkness shrouded Jesus on the cross, Satan had his brief glimmer of limelight, but when the tomb was opened, Satan’s doom was sealed! Now God’s Word says clearly that every believer has sure victory, certain success, absolute assurance of final conquest.

We often wonder at God’s ways. If you want your people to work hard, why guarantee their salary? Why not give them a quota, some incentive to earn their keep. But remember that the very nature of salvation is that it’s a free gift from God. The gospel would not be so glorious if it could be earned by our labor. Instead it is too lofty, too high for us. It is so glorious it is unattainable. God’s eternal riches are reserved for those who, in absolute humility, fall on their faces before His throne in worship and adoration. May His name be praised! We’ve won, now let’s get to work!

To the Bitter End

“And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords (of the Philistines), and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life… And he judged Israel twenty years.” -Judges 16:30-31

The old Testament is filled with stories that seem very disconnected with us culturally and religiously. Samson is no exception. His life seems to be a series of moral failures and yet God sovereignly uses him to punish the Philistines (though never totally subdue them). When we read of one of God’s wild men in the Bible, we may be tempted to convince ourselves that we can live inconsistently and still be used of God. But listen to C. I. Scofield’s observation about Samson’s life…

The character and work of Samson are alike enigmatical. Announced by an
angel he was a Nazarite who constantly defiled his Nazarite separation through
fleshly appetites. Called of God to judge Israel, and endued wonderfully with
the Spirit, he wrought no abiding work for Israel and perished in captivity to
his enemies the Philistines. What was real in the man was his mighty faith in
Jehovah in a time of doubt and apostasy, and this faith God honored.

Because Samson had a mighty faith in God, he was used to temporarily punish the Philistines. But because Samson gave himself to the power of the flesh so often, he was never used to actually lead Israel into national revival or to defeat the Philistines in a final sense. The only tribute to his life was a pile of bodies, including his own. He broke his parents’ heart, disrespected his wives, misrepresented his nation, and devalued his Nazarite calling.

Let us never think that there is any thing good to come of our flesh. Let us instead give our lives to the struggle for consistency. The calling of a Nazarite was to a life separate from the world, the flesh, and the pleasures thereof. It was a picture of the high and holy calling of every believer in Christ. We are not called to compromise, but to consecration. May God use us to subdue the enemy and to lead our nation in revival through a holy and separated life.