Victory lap

There was a time many years ago when I was really sick. It was one of those truly miserable head and chest colds, the kind where you can barely move and you’re just stuck lying on the couch for days on end waiting to feel better. While I was stuck there, I watched a lot of television. One day in particular, I remember coming across the Tour de France on TV. To most Americans I know, this bicycle race doesn’t hold a whole lot of meaning, but in the cycling world it doesn’t get more important or more prestigious than the Tour de France. Not only is it prestigious, but this race is truly grueling. It lasts for three weeks and riders travel over two thousand miles before they reach the finish line.

So I turn it on expecting to see determined Europeans battling it out to prove which one is the best cyclist in all the world, but that’s not what I found. Instead, this was like a party on two wheels. These people were laughing as they casually pedaled through some city. They were even sipping champagne while they rode! Every once in a while someone in the crowd would hold out a glass of champagne and the riders would grab the glasses and just drink away! I checked the info, wondering if maybe this was some sort of practice run or something, but the info said this was the final leg of the 23-day race. These riders were nearing the finish line. Logic said that they should’ve been fighting for position, pouring every ounce of strength they had left into the battle with the nearby riders. But they weren’t. They were coasting along, laughing and drinking, looking like they didn’t have a care in all the world.

I turned up the volume and listened as the commentators explained what was going on. Yes, this was still a race, and yes, it was very important and prestigious. However, the reason the riders near the front of the pack were chilling out and having a good time was because their victory was already assured. There was no chance of a loss because they were so far ahead of everyone else. Sure, it was technically still a fight against the other riders, but in truth these men were already taking their victory lap. The battle was already won.

Lately, I’ve felt God calling His people into action. He’s summoning us onto the battlefield, into the fight between good and evil. The darkness is raging against the light, and God needs us to take up the mantle of the light and fight back. That’s a serious thing, to be called to war. I talked in recent weeks about my history as a fence sitter, as someone who excelled at avoiding confrontation. But now here’s God, calling me out onto the spiritual battlefield. I can’t claim to be a mighty warrior, and truthfully my answer to God’s call into the war has been a slow one. I tried to obey at my own pace, which yes, is disobedience. I took these tiny steps, hoping they would be progress enough to constitute obedience. I became aware of the battlefield. I started looking at it for the first time and told God that yes, I did see that there was a war being fought all around me. Still He called, and so I tiptoed out into the fight just a little. I didn’t stray too far from the sidelines, but you know, I took a few steps and looked around some more. Yeah God, I confirm what you’re telling me, it’s a war zone, and the fighting is raging all around us. It’s a war in our minds, in our hearts, in our schools, in our government, in the streets, on the internet, in the entertainment industry. This is a war with 100,000 fronts. I see it now, Lord. There’s a lot of fighting that needs to be done, but does it really have to be done by me?

It’s shameful how long it took me to finally accept His summons. And look, let me just be super honest and clear here, I’m still not where I need to be with this. There is more that I can and should be doing. So let me just say that up front. But I think I can say that I’ve started to fight. Maybe not any huge wars, but a few skirmishes here and there. I’ve taken a stand for the light a time or two, started to strike at the darkness I see in my little sphere of influence in life. It’s not a lot, but it’s a start. Truth be told, I was scared to fight. I haven’t spent much time in the battlefield in my life. As I imagined what it might be like out there, sometimes I was afraid. I’ve heard stories of Christians coming into contact with demon possessed people. Some Christians get killed for trying to spread the news of Jesus, for trying to fight against the darkness, especially in countries overseas. What sort of crazy enemies would attack me? What strongholds of sin and evil was I going to see once I got onto this battlefield? These fears contributed to my hesitation in answering God’s call.

Now that I’m out here on the battlefield, do you know what I see? Our victory lap. Yes, war is serious, and I’m not downplaying at all the high stakes of trying to free people from the darkness. But we’re riding at the front of the pack, my friends. We have nothing to fear, because the race is already won. The enemy gnashes its teeth and screams and shouts and spits, but when you face down evil with Jesus in your heart and His power flowing through you there is no enemy that can stand against you.

There’s a very quotable scripture in Romans chapter 8 that says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It’s one of the great assurances of victory in the Bible, but I find that if you read that entire chunk of Romans you get a better sense of what it means to have assured victory through Jesus.

Romans 8:28-37 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

You see, God gave us a book that not only tells us about things that happened in the past, but it also tells us things that will happen in the future. If you flip to the end, there’s a book called Revelation, and I’m just going to spoil it for you, darkness tries to snuff out the light, but the good guys win. Satan and all his motley crew get tossed into a lake of fire, and Jesus reigns forevermore in victory.

Revelation 17:14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

Don’t take lightly God’s call to battle. It is a battle, after all. But don’t let fear cause you to be disobedient the way I did. Don’t let your imaginings of all the terrible things you might face if you fight for God keep you from fighting. The forces of Jesus step into a battle that is pre-determined against a foe that is pre-defeated. Trust in the word of God, trust that our Lord won’t send us to fight without giving us all that we need to win. Get out there with your Christian brothers and sisters and enjoy the victory lap, take joy in being present as we gain ground for our King.

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, I repent right now for my slow response to your call.  I repent that I allowed fear to keep me from obeying you.  It’s so silly that I did that, because I should’ve known that you weren’t going to bring me into something that was going to defeat me.  If you say fight, it doesn’t matter what stands before me, I know I can fight with confidence of assured victory.  So Father God, right now I speak over my friends and family, my church, and all the believers I know.  I ask right now that you gather us together on the battlefield.  Where there is fear or anxiety that is causing any of us to hesitate in answering your call to battle, I pray that it is banished in Jesus’ name.  Let us take that step of faith into the war, and once we’re there let us rejoice at the victorious state we find ourselves in.  God, I’m so engrossed in the Old Testament right now, and I’m reminded so much of how battles for your people tended to go back then.  A lot of times there was so little required of your forces other than for them to show up.  Show up, and watch God deliver the victory.  Today, God, I tell you that I am here.  I’ve shown up to the fight.  Make known to me what comes next, and remind me of those two beautiful words you first showed me in the book of Joshua, to be strong and courageous.  Let us be joyful fighters, and let our weapons be love and truth, and let our victories in your name be too numerous to count.  Thank you for the love and protection you show to us, for the purpose you put into our lives.  Thank you for the honor of being able to fight for you.  I love you, God, and I’m so glad to know that you love me.  In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.

Another Monday has come and gone.  I hope it treated all of you well.  Mine was full of work and friendship, and I’ll take that any day of the week.  God loves you.  Never forget that.

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