victory and defeat

On this, the day following this year’s NCAA championship game and living in the great commonwealth of Kentucky, I can’t help but be painfully aware of the angst some of my fellow natives are feeling today.  Yes, the University of Louisville achieved victory last night and some other team was forced to accept defeat.  From the small details I’ve picked up here and there, that other team, Michigan something I think, played well enough, but just couldn’t quite hack it.  Obviously, my sports knowledge is lacking, but I’d say at this point that pretty much covers the basics.

I’m not a sports person, but I think even if I were my mind would have been elsewhere as I rose this morning.  As I look out across my front yard at the world coming to life with the many-thousandth springtime miracle, my thoughts are drawn away to death and defeat. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve considered our adversary, Satan, and how he works on us.  How he goes to and fro.  How he seeks our children, our families, our churches, each of us… to devour us.  How he uses whatever tool he can coil around to destroy us.  For some it’s an ax and he cuts us down with one fell swoop.  For some it’s a hammer and pick… just one chip at a time until we’re unrecognizable even to ourselves.  For some it’s nothing more than a pair of distorting glasses, so that everything we might recognize as true or pure or just or lovely becomes a lie.  It’s a little different for each one of us, but no one is immune.  We’re never completely safe from his attacks.

Today my heart is aching for our families.  There are situations today and probably at any given time that feel like gaping wounds in our churches.  Sometimes Satan lurks in the shadows, but sometimes he seems to rise up and laugh in our faces.  He uses these situations not only to attempt to destroy those directly involved, but to tempt the rest of us to anger and bitterness.  He tempts us to question God and despair over what’s been broken.  He casts doubt in our minds and tries to persuade us that our trust in misguided.  He tempts us to believe that he is the one in charge.

He tries to make us accept defeat.

If you’ll forgive another attempt at sports lingo, we don’t have to wait until the final buzzer to know which side gets the W.  We have a guard against Satan’s ax.  His pick and hammer may chink away at our minds, but there’s a part of us that he’ll never change… or even touch! He can try, and maybe even succeed sometimes, to distort what’s true, but we have a Book full of promises and a God who never changes.

Jesus achieved victory.  And not over death alone, but over all sin.  Over every single thing that causes us grief or heartache.  The things that destroy us.  The things that tear families apart.  The things that tear churches apart.  Doubt, distrust, despair, anger, bitterness, jealousy, loneliness, fear.  All the things that break our hearts in this life.  Jesus defeated all those things.

And as impossible as it may seem in some situations, God is still the repairer of broken things.  His grace is still sufficient to reconcile sinful men and women.  He is still big enough to put things right.

I would exhort all of us today and everyday…

Pray.  God hears.  No matter your age, no matter your station in life, no matter how far you may be from God… pray.

Put Satan back in the shadows.  He flees from those who resist him.  Tell him to get out of your home and that he’s not welcome there.  And don’t invite him back in.

Guard your hearts.  Even the most careful, most godly people fall prey to those fiery darts.

Jealously protect your families.  We are the target.

Don’t despair.  He’s overcome the world.  He’s able in all things.

And when you’re tempted… remember, For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to [help] them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).