Enduring Defeat

Overcoming defeat.

Feeling defeated sucks. It drains our energy and wears down our spirit. I’m not referring to the obvious one-time defeats like losing a football game, or ending a relationship, or failing a class.  I’m talking about the long term, ongoing feeling that life isn’t working out the way we planned. We aren’t as far along as we hoped. Our mountain of debt grows every month. Our marriage isn’t as fulfilling as it’s supposed to be. Something is always broken, something always needs repair. We leave for work early in case there’s traffic, only to find out there’s more traffic than expected, and we’re late anyway. Just got a sprained ankle, caught a cold, Seahawks won again, parking ticket, food poisoning, rain on your vacation, dog just died, netflix removed that series before you finished it… the list goes on. I haven’t even mentioned the never-ending catastrophic life-sucking poison we call the news. Don’t get me started! Life is hard. Is there no relief in sight?

But wait! There’s more… we tell ourselves that it’s just my life. I’m the only one miserable. The neighbor came home with a new car. Some doofus at the office got the open position I wanted. A high school friend is getting married. Someone else just posted all these amazing vacation pictures on instachat and snapgram. etc…

It’s hard to keep grinding away day after day, not having anything extraordinary in sight. With no change of pace, no apparent rescue on the horizon, we can fall into questioning our situation. Is God really for us? Is He watching my life?  Is He even there??

We know the answers to those three questions are all Yes. In our minds we know it, but in reality it doesn’t always feel like it. Can we just be honest for 5 seconds? Sure we’re saved, but is Jesus really walking with us? Like, right now? Here? Can you honestly say you feel like He is?

Let me first say that there is a way things work. There is a method to the world around us. Everything does happen for a reason. Sometimes the reason is I’m an idiot and I make stupid decsions. Old milk will turn bad. That’s just the reality. Don’t drink it. Ignoring the oil on my car will ruin the engine. That’s not life attacking me. That’s just me being ridiculous. Neglecting our diet won’t result in good health. And have you EVER felt good after absorbing an hour of the news?

Having said that, let’s look at some truth. We have an enemy, and he absolutely hates us. Too often we look at Adam and Eve in the garden as the beginning of the story, but that’s not accurate. They show up in Act 3. In the beginning (the actual beginning) the Trinity exists in the kingdom with all the angels. That’s where Act 1 takes place.

In Act 2 there is a rebellion, a betrayal, an attempted mutiny. Satan tries to overthrow Authority and claim the Crown as his own. This begins the greatest war to ever take place in the universe. It makes Lord of the Rings look like an afternoon with the Care Bears. Satan and 1/3 of the angels fight against Archangel Michael and his angels. Two massive forces clash. Lucifer fails and is thrown from the kingdom with his army, falling down to earth like lightning. He is unable to return, ever. Since his defeat he has remained filled with relentless hatred and rage against the Trinity, however he cannot reach them.

Enter Adam and Eve, Act 3. Humanity is brought into existence and filled with the breath of life. Male and female, created in the image of God. Now if you’re satan and you hate God but you can’t reach Him, and you come across God’s image-bearers whom He loves, what would you do?

We were born into a world at war. Day one we have an enemy and he is out to maul us. “He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” 1Peter 5:8. There is warfare going on around us. We would do well to become aware of our enemy and his devices.

So, what is life for the believer supposed to look like? We get saved and receive the promise of heaven. Are we just meant to try avoiding this lion for all of our years and wait to die? John 10:10 ends with Jesus saying “I have come that they may have life after departing from this wretched land”. Not quite right, is it? He actually says “I have come that they may have life AND have it more abundantly.” He’s taking about life in heaven as well as life here and now. If you don’t believe me, read the beginning of that verse. In the same breath Jesus says, “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy”.  That’s obviously talking about here and now. Satan can’t doing any of that when we’re in heaven. This is great news! Jesus offers us a great life here in the midst of this epic war.

This is evident in practically all of His miracles performed while He was here. He didn’t just forgive the people He came in contact with. He healed them, made them walk again, gave them sight, brought them back to life! These are not metaphors. These are actual people with physical disabilities that receive physical healing. These people were absolutely defeated. Some of them since birth. The good news is that He was and still is the answer to having a great life. If He can give someone eyesight, do we seriously think he can’t turn our financial situation around, heal our marriage, help us get a more fulfilling job, give us actual peace and joy? Of course he can.

So, why is suicide the second leading cause of death among youth in America? Why is it number one in many other countries? Why is the divorce rate so high? Why do so many children get put up for adoption, or worse, aborted? Why are anti-depressants among the top three most commonly used prescription drugs in the world? Why do so many people struggle?  Simple. They’ve lost hope. Either we don’t understand what this promise is, or we don’t know how to put it into action. Maybe we don’t believe it at all. That’s a scary one. Matt 13:58. Mark 6:5. Jesus “could do no miracles there(in Nazareth) because of their lack of belief”

Hope. I don’t mean optimism. Just plain old hope. We need hope that good things are coming. Prov 13:12 “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. combine that with Prov 4:23 “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”. Some translations say “everything you do flows from it”. The enemy doesn’t attack us physically. He attacks us mentally and emotionally, causing us to lose heart. He makes suggestions and puts thoughts in our head, thoughts that we accept and make agreements with. “This always happens to me.” “Nothing ever works out how I planned.” “She always acts like this. she’s so disrespectful.” “He’ll never change. He doesn’t understand me.” “It’s just alcohol, not like I’m doing heroin”. “It’s just porn, not like I’m out committing murder.” “I’m always going to be fat.” “I married the wrong person.” “God doesn’t answer my prayers.” “I’ll never be good at (fill in the blank).” Recognize any of these agreements?

The greatest trick satan ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. He feeds these thoughts to us then steps back to make us own them. His message is “see, you’re just a mess. I’m not even here. This is all you. You’re a screw up on your own.” This is a sample of the warfare that exists around us.

Let’s pray and ask God to reveal the agreements that we’ve made inside that are causing us to become angry, be easily hurt, get annoyed by others, have no patience, lose heart. Then let’s stay quiet and focus on what comes to mind. Let’s also pray against any kind of enemy attempts to keep us from hearing God answering us. This may take a while to get good at. These are both very real things, listening for God and identifying the enemy’s attempts to block us. Then we need to expect God to show up for us. Expect to hear from Him.

When we figure out what’s dragging us down, we need to bring it to God. A bad experience in the past. Perhaps something we did that still tugs at our flesh. The war is still going on, and nobody gets through it without taking wounds. Maybe you feel abandoned by parents, or embarrassed by friends, deceived by a spouse who “isn’t the same person you married”. A problem well understood is a problem half solved. Take these issues uncovered to God and ask Him to help you overcome them. Make a new agreement that these things no longer define you, and they will not hold you back.

I mentioned all the people Jesus healed, but do we remember what he did before that? He would ask them what they wanted. “Do you want to walk? Do you want to see? What are you after?  What do you want?” He wants people to get honest with themselves, address their issues, and believe that He can fix them, make them whole again. Remember “He could do no miracles because of their lack of belief.” You really think He couldn’t do any miracles? Of course He could have, but there is a line that God does not cross called free will. The questions of “do you want to be healed” are invoking free will from the people. They are essentially giving Jesus permission to intervene in their lives and rescue them. Oh, and by the way, your sins are forgiven too.

Matt 18:11 “the Son of man came to seek and save what was lost”. So… what was lost? Short answer – everything! Our innocence, our purity, our peace of mind, our strength, our self image, our God given authority over the Earth, our freedom, our hope. God’s original plan for us, our destiny before the fall was to reign over the Earth. This was, and still is our kingdom. Obviously we’re not taking the entire Earth back until Jesus comes to destroy evil once and for all. But we can take back our own lives now.

We can resist the enemy so that he flees from us, as James 4:7 says. 2Cor 10:3-5 “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” When the enemy tries to feed us these agreements about our spouse, our past, our parents, our coworkers, we need to take action and control our thoughts.  Phil 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

This will start to rebuild our self image, bring hope back into our lives, and give us the strength to walk by faith instead of trying to play it safe. We haven’t come this far to only come this far. The next time defeat comes our way, we will remember that God is still with us. The next time, instead of saying “yup, life still sucks and there’s no point in trying”, we’ll be able to say, “Let’s go! It’s time to see what I’m made of.”

more info on communication with God, check out Walking With God, by John Eldredge.

more info on spiritual warfare, check out The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis, and Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge.

for an intense in-depth look at everything written here, check out my friends at forfreedomoutreach.org

by the way, I had to look up all of these verses. I’m not cool enough to have all their placement memorized. Just being transparent.

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