Victory in Defeat

My plan was to pray over the long list of verses and thoughts in my diary ready to create an author post. But I found my eyes drawn to the last topic in my short list of blog ideas, ‘Overcoming in Defeat’. I stared at the words, acutely aware of their relevance for the season we’re in. Pulling out my journal from July— where the original ideas were recorded—I read and was stirred once again.

I had been mulling over Paul’s instruction in Romans 12:21 ‘Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.’ The idea sounded inspiring—but how did it work?

As I mused, I had written, ‘Lord, doing good when we’re treated badly doesn’t feel like overcoming. It feels like defeat, like bowing to the evildoer.‘ I was thinking of some painful conflicts I’d faced in the preceding week.

Almost immediately, I sensed God’s response. ‘So it was with the cross. My son’s death had every appearance of defeat and injustice. He was condemned via an unfair trial, placed in the hands of prideful, demon-driven zealots, treated with utmost brutality, betrayed and abandoned by most of His dearest friends. He even felt forsaken by Me—His Father, who sent Him.

It was true. I could see Jesus in my mind—accused, betrayed, dragged away like a criminal, ridiculed and beaten by supposedly God-fearing people, then enduring a slow, agonizing death in front of a jeering crowd. He had the power to crush those who attacked Him, yet He forgave them, yielding to His Father’s will. To any onlooker—even Jesus’ closest friends—it appeared the enemy had soundly defeated Him.

That morning God reminded me of an important truth—what we perceive isn’t always reality.

The gruelling process Jesus endured had a purpose far beyond what anyone could see at that time. What looked like defeat was, in reality, stupendous victory. Through His suffering and death, Jesus disarmed the very powers that were trying to destroy Him, making a public spectacle of them. And He opened up the way for us to be forgiven, set free and welcomed into the family of God. Victory indeed! None of those breakthroughs could have come without Jesus’ humble willingness to walk in obedience.

My notes from God’s revelation continued,

Every time you choose good, there is a victory in your spirit and your character. Each time you submit to Me and lay down your desire to do things your own way, I build muscle into your character and grow you in authority for greater victories.

Photo by sharonjoy17 on Pixabay

Eating the best of the land (as promised in Isaiah 1:19) isn’t just about material, tangible experiences. It’s about the heart, the spirit and the spiritual realm. So be willing and obedient. Follow the way of the cross. It will be worth it.

God’s route to victory is rarely the high road. More often it is a path of servanthood, humiliation and frail dependence. In God’s economy the last are first, servants are declared the greatest, the proud are opposed and the humble are lavished with grace. Those events that have all the appearance of failure are forward steps on the path to triumph.

This concept is foreign to our success-oriented world. Our bibles are laden with living examples. Think of Joseph—a slave and a prisoner—made second in charge under Pharaoh; of Gideon—the least of the least—who led God’s people into conquest; of David—the shepherd boy with a sling and a stone—who defeated a terrifying giant; of Rahab—a prostitute—who had her pagan family rescued from certain destruction and was welcomed into the lineage of Jesus.* Then there was Jesus—the Son of God—who made Himself nothing, taking on the role of servant to His subjects and surrendering His life in the most gruesome of deaths. His humble obedience led to ultimate exaltation, higher than any other—forever .

There’s always more to the story than what we see. Always.

If we’re seeking to walk with God and doing good as He directs, His victory will come. We may not always see the full result of our obedience, but we can be confident of this—God will fulfil His purpose, in our hearts and in our world. So, let’s press on, choosing willing, trusting obedience. Jesus is with us—and He knows the way.

Triumph comes via the low road.

Photo by Peregrine Photography on Unsplash

‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’

Hebrews 12:2-3

*You can read more about these overcomers in the following passages.

Joseph: Gen 37-41

Gideon: Judges 6-8

David: 1 Samuel 16-17

Rahab: Joshua 2 and 6

The Beauty of Ordinary

A two minute chat with a couple of nine year olds left me unravelled.

My daughter’s class were bush dancing for their PE session. Their knees lifted high and their heads bobbed as they heel-toe, heel-toed back and forth in front of me. It looked like so much fun that I decided to join in. (The school encourages parent involvement). Bouncing along beside them, I locked eyes with different ones and grinned as I copied their movements.

When the music ended, the PE leaders moved to the stereo to restart the song. The students clustered together, panting steadily.

I stepped close to a huddle of girls. “Phew, that was hard work.” I patted my stomach. “Especially when you’ve just finished breakfast.”

One of the girls looked at me, her lovely eyes wide. “Have you only just eaten breakfast?”

“Ye-es.” My mind raced, clutching at a good excuse. “I do that last. Today I finished eating on the way here while my son drove.” That was fifteen minutes ago.

She looked at me blankly, seemingly shocked.

I make a habit of chatting to my daughter’s classmates each morning. Somehow I’d missed this one. Until today. Right at that moment she was forming her view of me. Probably not a good one.

“I’m not an early riser.” I smiled apologetically. “Do you get up early?”

She did.

My mind flitted back to some things I’d heard about their family lifestyle. This girl would have been up for hours. Breakfast, for her, was a distant memory. Unlike me.

Another girl – one I knew well – leaned forward, tilting her head while tiny furrows formed in her brow. I could almost hear the cogs turning as her deep blue eyes questioned me. “So, do you brush your teeth before breakfast?”

I paused and took a deep breath. “No, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet.”

I could almost hear their gasp.

“I’ll do them when I get home.”

My flustered thoughts were interrupted by another question from girl number one. “Do you go out to work?”

I pictured the way I was dressed. Black track pants, joggers and an ugly red polar fleece – unattractive but warm. Perfect for a day at home. Unimpressive compared to a working mum’s stylish garments.

“No, I’m a writer.” Well, technically that wasn’t true. “I stay at home and do writing.” My voice faded as I ran out of words.

The music began and I retreated from the group to watch. My mind was in a whirl, struggling with the desire to explain all the good things I did. All the ways I fit the ‘perfect mother’ mould.

Far out God, am I really that insecure?

It took a little while to shake off the sense of failure. I’m not like the mothers of those girls. I don’t get up early and dress smartly for work. I’m not so efficient with the morning routine. Some days I don’t finish my breakfast till after everyone’s gone to school.

But I am loved.

One thing I’ve learnt in the past few years is that God’s love for me isn’t dependent on my performance. Because of His character, that love is faithful and steady. Unchanging. Regardless of my failings.

I’ve found that the more I face up to my frailty, the more I feel His boundless love.

Even better, that love lives in me. Because I’ve invited Him to flood my life, I carry His presence within me. I may be inadequate. He is more than enough. I may be ordinary. He is extraordinary.

God loves to do the unexpected. He puts treasure in jars of clay. Gives beauty for ashes; joy for mourning. Pours His overcoming strength into those who have nothing left.

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I can identify with the clay jar – an ordinary, insignificant household item in Bible times – a bit chipped around the outside and able to be broken. It’s God’s constant, loving presence that gives me worth. Because of Him, I always have something to offer those around me. Even on the most ordinary days.

My worth comes not from myself but from the treasure I carry. And it seems the more cracks I let people see, the more His goodness is able to shine through.

When God is present, ordinary becomes something beautiful.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ” 2 Corinthians 4: 7, 16.

(Photo taken from Homeschooling Against All Odds/Homeschool411.com)