Victorious Living

Victorious Living

By Pat Knight

I have always known that as a child of God, I have the ability to lead a victorious life. When I was young, I naively believed spiritual victory was instinctive. Now I understand that in order for victory to be won, a battle must be overcome. How will any of us achieve triumph without previously encountering conflict? How else do we experience trust unless we practice the art? During hardships, we are commanded to persevere, but we are incapable of acquiring perseverance without habitually practicing it. There is no healing without sickness; no power without weakness; no success without failure. Trials offer the opportunity to grow in faith, and as a result, we mature in our walk with Christ himself.

Few believers have been tested by God more intensely than Abraham. The patriarchs’ only son was a direct gift from God, through whom God would complete His promise to Abraham, with “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).

Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his covenant son as a burnt offering, was poised with knife in hand, ready to plunge it into Isaac, who was strapped to the sacrificial altar. On their three-day journey to the mountaintop, Isaac questioned his father as to where they would find the lamb for the altar. Abraham answered, “‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son’” (v. 8).

God was testing Abraham’s obedience. The best Abraham hoped for was that God might raise his son from the dead. He never questioned God, nor did his resolve falter. Just as the father was positioned to slay his son, “the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham! … Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’”

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son” (vv. 11-13).

As we know, obedience is a difficult discipline, especially when the investment is so costly. However, our Lord accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. Not only did Abraham experience God’s faithfulness, but he also learned the measure of his own trust—the extent to which he followed and obeyed his heavenly Father.

Words are easily dispensed and often insignificant, but submissive actions require commitment, determination, and tenacious faith. Abraham could hardly have understood God’s reasons for providing a son in his old age, only to take him away. In spite of his lack of comprehension, Abraham believed in God so passionately, that His faith overwhelmed his doubt. He was willing to place all of his confidence in the Lord’s plans, for Abraham had witnessed His glory and faithfulness previously. He believed in Almighty God without reservation.

God already knew Abraham would react courageously that day, for He is omniscient (all-knowing). God tested Abraham so he would learn about His God and himself. Abraham’s personal, adamant faith and steadfast obedience were reinforced in the face of huge consequences. Most importantly, Abraham ascertained the unlimited extent to which he could trust the living God; His faithfulness, loving kindness, protection, and promises; God’s desire and ability to provide all of his needs (Philippians 4:19).

Abraham’s test of faith is included in God’s Word to stimulate in believers’ hearts a similar love of our heavenly Father. Satan tempts us to fail. God never tempts; He tests us to illustrate His love and mercy. It is important for every believer to acquire knowledge of self-motivation and priorities; any limits that might inhibit our growth in faith. Obedience is evidence of genuine faith. Questions are raised during a test of faith. To what extent do my actions reflect my love for God? Am I willing to yield to His will? How much of my life am I capable of surrendering in light of Jesus’ humiliating, heinous suffering on the cross to secure my redemption? Like Jesus, may we pray that God’s will be accomplished in all of life’s circumstances.

There can be no victory when there is no submission to the will of God. ─J. Vernon McGee

Some of our most important lessons are mastered while struggling with unrelenting trials. The apostle, Paul, admitted, “‘that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul accessed God’s power, transforming his afflictions into spiritual victory. Hardships of any kind are best approached with confidence, acknowledging that God’s perfect plans, in His precise timing, are sovereign components to victory.

To navigate adversity, call on your heavenly Father, for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). God is always in control of His creation. We need never fear when He is directing our lives, a comforting declaration of his mighty, sustaining presence.

The apostle James instructs us how to react to the variety of adversities that assail us: “‘Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’” (James 1:2-4). Joy results from recognizing that God has included our welfare in His plans, for He loves and cares for His own.

Christian maturity is an impossible journey without God’s abiding presence and assistance. When faced with hardship or grief, we learn to run straight into the arms of Jesus, trading our weakness for His incredible power, trusting Him unconditionally. The happy outcome is that we draw closer to our Lord, producing Christlikeness in our lives.

Experiencing joy amidst trials is an avenue to spiritual victory. We gain Christian maturity by navigating life’s trials with perseverance and steadfastness, obeying God in all situations. Our Lord’s mercy, grace, and compassion encourage us to navigate afflictions as we resolve to develop wholehearted faith. We are commanded to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). There are no exceptions to God’s directive. His plans for our lives are perfectly designed and authenticated, with higher purposes than we fully understand. Our responsibility, then, is to acknowledge that God has chosen wisely for each of His followers. Such knowledge produces joy. Therein is the victory!

Perseverance

“Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer”
(Proverbs 30:25
).

Perseverance

 By Pat Knight

I was sitting on the lower step of the deck with my feet dangling, soaking up the spring sunshine, when I caught movement in my peripheral vision. It was only a black ant, but it claimed my rapt attention. Before long my eyes were intently following the industrious ant on its journey. The insect was carrying a disproportionately big load for such a tiny creature, quite possibly a morsel of food it was instinctively transporting to a large ant colony.

Obviously, in the caste system of ants, this member was classified as a worker. Its sole purpose in life was to labor to deliver food to the colony where various duties were delegated. The ant had a purpose and seemingly nothing would deter it. Up and over the pieces of dirt, branches, and grass it maneuvered. When it reached an impasse, the ant would retrace its steps until it discovered an alternative route. I watched it crawl the length of a blade of grass, only to reach a dead end (ants are not proficient at jumping). It then crawled back over the shaft of grass, persistent in locating another route, repeating the process several times until a clear path was found. All during its journey, the cargo remained tightly within the grasp of the ant’s pincers. I was amazed at the tenacity, persistence, and concentration exhibited by one of God’s smallest creatures. The ant also possessed the capacity to contort its body segments to avoid exposure to larger prey or to risk losing its cumbersome freight.

The little ant and its work ethic caused me to wonder how man would react to carrying a comparable weight. Humans are distinguished from the animal kingdom by their power of reasoning. How we approach a task often depends on our attitude. Details entangle us, which may cloud our vision or the outcome of the task. Alternatively, when we view a project worthy of our focus and energy, we push ahead, relying on God for help and strength. God wants us to depend on Him. Good attitudes combined with a vibrant faith in God result in accomplishments.  

At times we may assess our jobs as too demanding or difficult. Our normally ironclad will may crumble under adversity. In the face of hardship, discouragement erupts and we retreat. Our determination collapses. We ask ourselves, Why should I expend so much energy on an assignment no one notices? God, our resource of strength and encouragement, promises to provide energy for each task He regards significant.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). God allocates specific talents to each believer to enhance the body of Christ. Dysfunction and inefficiency would occur from too many people choosing their favorite roles. God knows the talents needed for the greatest functionality. With the gifts He apportions, He also provides the ability to achieve at our best. Aware that God supports us in all of our endeavors, we claim with the Apostle Paul, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

 When we mentally reclassify jobs as a calling from God, our work is dedicated to Him. Instead of seeking personal gratification, our efforts and the consequences are designated a gift from God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24b). By applying that mindset, even the most mundane task demands our best. Enthusiasm supplies added incentive.

In our workday, there are always challenges and obstacles to overcome. Like the ant who met dead ends on its journey, do we possess the flexibility to back up and try again? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). We need not feel repelled by strenuous work. It is good for the body and soul; an outlet for stress. When we tackle a worthy project, we may contribute to a larger goal affecting many people. Let us take another hint from the little insect: “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25). Work hard to plan for future needs.

Ants live in a highly complex community of socialization where members perform a variety of instinctive, specialized duties. Each ant’s lifetime assignment keeps the insect colony operating smoothly. Though humans are blessed with multiple abilities and talents, we are admonished to “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

As incredible as it may seem, I followed the determined ant for an hour and a half that sunny afternoon. I observed it’s every advance and detour. Eventually, I had to walk from my position on the step to catch up to the ant’s sojourn; it traveled farther than my eyes could follow from one position. I am assuming the ant finally reached its destination, though I didn’t follow it that far. I had already learned the lessons God chose a humble ant to illustrate:

  • For utmost success, persevere with a positive attitude.
  • Nothing should interrupt our determination to get the job done.
  • Grumbling and complaining are futile and clash with God’s commands
  • Dividing a big job into smaller segments is less tiresome.

“Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We are all God’s kingdom workers, spiritually united to live and work collaboratively and to grow together in maturity.

We learn from the work ethic of the ant. Perhaps one long journey was its only contribution to the colony during its short lifespan. If so, the ant’s single-minded tenacity was paramount. With our advanced, knowledgeable human minds, we learn the value of a superior work method from one of the tiniest of God’s creatures. There is no room for laziness and negative attitudes in God’s kingdom. He promises to supply the strength necessary to rejoice in His service.

“If anyone serves, he should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11). When Christians use the spiritual gifts God assigns, there exists tranquility when individuals cooperate with fellow believers for the benefit and harmony of the entire family of God.