Raising the banner of victory!

Jesus tells all His disciples: “You’re going to run into trouble. The world’s going to throw a lot at you. Hostility. Heartache. Heavy loads.”

“I have told you all these this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Does it mean [Christ] no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37)

The key to our victory is Jesus Christ. No matter what comes at us. His words, “I’ve told you all these things…” end His farewell instructions to the eleven disciples (although they don’t know yet that it is farewell.) John 14, 15, and 16 lay down a solid path to peace and victory even though Jesus would be physically absent from them.

It’s also our path to peace and victory.

“Trust me,” He says. “Trust God. And following me will bring you to God.”

I’m going away for a while, but I’ll be back.
Remember what I’ve taught you about loving each other.
Listen to the Helper I’m going to send. He’ll teach you too and help you to remember.
Stay connected to me.
Don’t be shocked when the world hates you. It hates me, too.
Yes, there will be suffering, tears, and trouble, but fantastic joy will come after that.

“And take heart. Don’t give up. Because I have overcome the world.”

Those words were also spoken for us today. What do they mean to you?

I’m still asking to be taught everything Jesus was saying with those words. I imagine it will take all of life and death until I understand fully.

But I do know this: Jesus said He holds supreme power. Over anything and everything that life in this world throws at me. He is the way I’ve chosen, the truth I believe, and the only one who can give me life.

So when He says to take heart because He holds triumph and victory, I believe that is reality. I believe God prepares feasts for me in the very presence of my enemies. And I want to stay so closely connected to Him that I can live according to that reality.

May the Lord send you help in times of trouble.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory…
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
(from Psalm 20)

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
You are my refuge. Don’t let them kill me.
(Psalm 141:8)

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MORE: 1 Chronicles 5:20; Psalm 9:9-10; Psalm 18; Psalm 20:1-5; Psalm 23:5; Psalm 25:14-16, 20; Psalm 28:7-8a; Psalm 31:1-5; Psalm 33:18-22; Psalm 34:6; Psalm 54:7; Psalm 56:9; Psalm 59:9-10; Psalm 62:1-2, 5-8; Psalm 63:7-8; Psalm 91:2-3, 9-10; Psalm 105:4; Psalm 141:8; Psalm 143:9; Proverbs 18:10; Isaiah 40:29, 31a; Isaiah 41:11-16; John 16:33; Romans 6:6-7, 10-11; Romans 8:2, 26, 35, 37; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58; Ephesians 6:10-13; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 4:6-7, 13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 5; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 2:16-18; Hebrews 4:15-16; James 1:2-5, 12; James 4:7; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Peter 5:8-9a; 2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:4-5.

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Armed and on the offensive

Watch for the time of evil today. It will come.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Resist the enemy in the time of evil. I know that evil comes to every day of my life—daily, the enemy of my soul comes at me, hoping to win a skirmish or two and eventually conquer. Or sometimes he foregoes the sly strategies and simply blasts away with heavy artillery.

I need all the armor God offers me. I need to pay attention and take up and use this protection and weaponry He gives us: God’s truth, confidence in our relationship with God, and absolute trust in Him and His promises.

(Remember, Peter says these promises—our hope—will enable us to escape the world’s corruption and share God’s divine nature! That’s just so amazing to me that I had to remind you, too.)

Beyond the protective armor, God has also given us a sword—His Word. The Scriptures will not only help to protect us but will also give us weapons to demolish the enemy.

David described this in Psalm 18. Yes, I know, I’ve used this passage before—and many times. That’s because it’s my story; at least, in the beginning and middle of the chapter. My desire—no, my hope—is that the ending will also be my story.

The chapter starts out in distress and despair: “The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me.”

Have you had times of such paralyzing distress? I have. But the Lord comes to the rescue! The picture is dramatic. The Lord comes thundering from His sanctuary to rescue the one in trouble.

But that’s not the end of it all. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies then arms and makes strong, trains hands for battle and gives a shield of victory. We learn to fight the enemy, until at last he is ground up as fine as dust and swept into the gutter like dirt!

God rescued us from evil powers to begin with, and now He’s also training us and equipping us for the battle.

Our hope knows that we do not have to simply endure and defend against attack—God is giving us weapons and strength to go on the offensive and soundly defeat the enemy!

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
You are my refuge. Don’t let them kill me.
(Psalm 141:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Going to the throne for help

Do you know what you will first meet when you come to the throne room of the Almighty to ask for help?

We need help in the battle — we made-of-dust people who are fighting against powers of the spiritual realm.

And the one who can help us sits on the throne, holding power over all of heaven and earth.

So what happens when we go to Him for help, especially during a time of testing? Our faith is under fire, we’re ready to cave to the temptation, and we know it. If we call for help, what can we expect?

This High Priest of ours [Jesus Christ] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Have you really thought about what these words tell us? Take it apart, bit by bit.

Jesus understands our weaknesses because He struggled with the same things. And at times when we are most in danger of giving up the battle, if we go boldly to God we are met first and foremost with mercy.

Mercy!

Here I am, my faith teetering, my strength deserting me, my devotion ready to disintegrate. Yet if I come to Him for help, I meet …

… not judgment or condemnation or a sound scolding …

but mercy.

Gracious, loving, compassionate mercy. Because He understands my weakness.

And He comes to help me.

 

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So we need have no doubt or hesitation. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, pray about everything. Tell God what you need. And remember the things He has already done for you. (see Philippians 4:6-7)

Because, in God’s words, 

“I hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’
(Isaiah 41:13)

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
You are my refuge. Don’t let them kill me.
(Psalm 141:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Power for the fight

Do we stunt the growth of our faith with a simple choice of words? Even as we talk of resisting the devil and of defeating the enemy, has he cleverly twisted our thinking to keep our faith from growing?

I’m talking about the small pronouns I, me, and we.

When I focus on what I must do, on what I can do, to gain victory in this great battle, then Satan has already clamped a shackle around my faith.

My faith and hope wither quickly when I’m focused on my strength and resources.

If faith is struggling to believe, let it shift its focus to the one who makes all the difference in this battle — the Lord, Jesus Christ.

The one to whom all authority has been given.
The one who broke the power of evil and sin.
The one whose Spirit lives with His followers, providing them with a Helper.

Romans 8:2: Because you belong to [Christ Jesus], the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Galatians 5:16: So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Romans 8:26: The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.

We all know the inspirational piece written about footsteps in the sand. A man, looking back on his life, sees how God carried him through the toughest times. It would not surprise me at all to find, someday in the future when I can see all things clearly, that there have been terrible battles raging about me in the spiritual world. Battles I’ve been unaware of … all I could see was that I was having a terrible day (in my view) or I was battling doubt or depression or temptation or pain or anger … and even though I never saw it, the Spirit was fighting for me.

Scriptures say that the Spirit prays for us, even when we cannot pray ourselves. I believe the Spirit fights for us, too, when we do not know how to fight and even when we are unaware of the fight.

…the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
(1 John 4:4)

And so, when we focus on Jesus, all who believe become children of God. The Helper comes to live with every child of God. And His power is greater …

There lies the secret of victory—and that focus will keep our faith and hope in His promises strong.

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
You are my refuge. Don’t let them kill me.
(Psalm 141:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Who can have the victory?

John, one of Jesus’ closest friends on this earth, wrote a letter that focuses on Jesus’ commandments, all summed up in the command to love: love God, love each other.

Pretty much every evil in this world works against that kind of love. But John declares emphatically that every child of God can defeat the evil. He leaves no room for waffling or doubt:

For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (John 5:4-5)

The phrase “through our faith” reminds me of Jesus’ words many times to people He had healed: “Your faith has made you well.” Our faith makes us well, defeats the evil that would infect us. Those people who were healed had faith in Jesus. That’s where our hope and victory lie, too.

Jesus said that His power was greater than any other power we’d meet; that His power had broken all evil powers. How do we live in that reality? How do we take that hope and take every step of our pilgrimage relying on that?

Jesus did not come to help angels, but to help men and women like you and me. (Ironic, isn’t it, that somehow that phrase has developed, “I’m no angel.” Well, then, you’re exactly who Jesus came to help!) He became like us “in every way,” the writer of Hebrews tells us. We forget that sometimes. We forget that He experienced all the human needs and desires and frustrations and disappointments and stuff of daily living that we do.

He became like us, so that He could represent the human race before Almighty God, to stand in our place and pay the price for our sin and to stand for us in God’s throne room.

Even while He was here, He gave us examples of how to win the battle against the evil. He lived out lessons for us as human beings. Let’s take two instances when Jesus was, I think, strongly tempted. What did He do?

The first is found in Matthew 16. Jesus’ popularity is still high. Great crowds come to hear Him teach. Peter has declared he believes Jesus is the Son of God.

Then, abruptly and to the dismay of His friends, Jesus starts talking about what lies ahead for Him — death at the hands of the religious authorities.

Shaken, Peter starts to argue. “Don’t even talk like that,” he says.

Jesus gets rather sharp with his dear friend Peter. Could it be because the temptation is strong? Does He feel the same thoughts rising up within himself, that desire to deny what must happen to accomplish His mission? The desire just to say, “Forget it, I don’t want to do this” ? Is that why He responds so sharply?

His words are, “You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (16:23).

Wow. Jesus admits He is looking into a dangerous trap. On the threshold of taking His own human way and not God’s way.

Lord Jesus, when that trap lies ready to clamp its jaws around me at my very next step, give me a glimpse of God’s point of view.

The second example is when Jesus hangs dying on the cross. At the very last, He cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

He is quoting a well-known psalm. David wrote the line originally, and it’s set in the context of David’s own faith seeking protection from the traps of evil.

Could it be? Yes, I believe so. As Jesus, human like us, hung there dying, we know from His own words that He thought God had forsaken Him. At the very end, when He had agonized so painfully over what He must do and had prayed for strength to carry it through…and then it seemed God had deserted Him.

His prayer with His last breath is a prayer for us when we feel overwhelmed, when we feel God is not beside us, when we cannot see the hope or God’s point of view. When it seems like we are doomed to lose the battle.

Then, the only thing we can do is simply to say as Jesus did in those terrible moments, Father, hold me. My faith is slipping. My strength is gone. I give myself into Your hands. Hold me.

Who has victory over all the evil that comes against us? The one who believes in the Son of God, who came to help us.

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
You are my refuge. Don’t let them kill me.
(Psalm 141:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)