By Kyle Idleman
Have you ever felt defeated by your circumstances? What is it that transforms defeat into the ultimate victory?
I’ve got to be honest. As a pastor, my job is to help people understand their fundamental need for God. We are unable to navigate through this life on our own. So I help people recognize their need to surrender their life over to God. The only problem is some people seem to do pretty well without God.
More than likely, you know who I’m talking about. Those named “most likely to succeed” and crowned prom queen in May or valedictorian in June. Those who were the most popular in college and ended up with the most amazing internships. Or, how about those who get promoted every time there’s a promotion to be had? Some people seem to have an extraordinary ability and determination to succeed. Victory might as well be their middle name. Are you this person? Or, do you at least have a touch of the “winning gene?”
It’s possible you may feel undefeated after overcoming insurmountable odds or conquering giants. I get that, but I need to warn you that there are two opponents you cannot beat. The name of these opponents are sin and death.
Sin And Death
The Bible tells us everyone has sinned, and that sin leads to death. We’ve all sinned. Every one of us has an innate drive to push God aside and do what we want. Our sinful nature has a tendency to control us, and is impossible for us to maintain on our own.
In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul makes an honest portrayal of his enslavement to his sinful nature. I can relate with his inability to do what he wants to do or stop doing what he doesn’t want to do. I’m not sure we’re all as able to be as honest as Paul, but I’m sure we all share that same problem. Sin is one enemy we cannot defeat by ourselves.
Death is the other enemy we can’t defeat. We can’t control sin, and sin’s victory over us is death. God told Adam and Eve if they sinned, they would die, and the result of sin is the same today. We die. Someday I will die, and someday you will die. I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but the numbers on death are pretty impressive. Death has been batting a thousand.
Who Can Save Us
Imagine you’re out on a boat in the middle of the sea when a storm hits. The waves keep violently slamming against the boat. The vessel becomes overwhelmed and forces you to go flying into the ocean. Somehow, you have been able to keep your cell phone out of the water. By some miracle it’s still working and you even pick up a signal.
The low battery warning comes on and you’ve only got enough juice for one call. Who will you call? What will you ask for? Will you ask for some food because you’ll be treading water for a while and might get hungry? Will you call your boss and ask for a raise because you could use a little extra money? Will you call that special someone and finally pop the question?
No. When you realize you are in grave trouble, the only thing you can think is…who can save me?
Your Worst Circumstances
God is a god of victory. All through the Old Testament we see God victorious, and giving the ultimate victory to His people. But all through the Old Testament there were two enemies even God’s people could not defeat: sin and death.
So … God sends Jesus. God, who is victory, comes down to earth. God puts flesh on and takes human form, but He is still victory. God is capable of winning any victory, even over the enemies of sin and death.
Jesus lived a human life and then went to a cross. Tortured, beaten and bloody, Jesus hung in front of crowds who jeered him or felt sorry for him. It seemed like the most devastating loss ever suffered. Add insult to injury when Jesus got placed in a tomb. The one who many thought was God in the flesh, immortal, now dead and buried. Defeat seemed total and final. Except it wasn’t final, it wasn’t total, and it wasn’t even defeat.
It seemed like the God of victory was finally experiencing defeat. In truth, this was His ultimate victory over the worst circumstances. For it was on the cross Jesus overcame our sin problem. Three days later, Jesus walked out of the grave, overcoming our death problem and setting us free.
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:54-56)
Call Out and Surrender
If you’re desperate and realize you can’t save yourself, who do you call and what do you ask for? You call someone who can save you, and you surrender.
Throughout the Bible, we’re encouraged many times to call on the name of the Lord to be saved. He is the only one who can provide the ultimate victory we need over sin and death. And so, we call out to Him and surrender.
We couldn’t save ourselves but we desperately need saving. This is news that needs sharing and celebration. John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Once we do, we live the rest of our lives in the light of what He’s given us, “the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 states, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The rest of our lives nothing moves us. We live with confidence. A confidence not in ourselves, but in the one who has the power to experience victory over sin and death.
Ultimate Victory Is Ours
It makes me think of the confidence Laura Wilkenson had while diving in the 2000 Olympics. Her confidence seemed extreme even though she seemed to have little to no chance of winning. To make matters worse, Laura had recently broken three bones in her foot. She had been unable to dive for two months leading up to the Games.
Despite her circumstances, Laura Wilkenson won the Gold Medal. A reporter interviewed her immediately afterwards. “This is unbelievable, coming back from your injury—no one expected you to win. With all the emotion and excitement, tell us what is going through your mind at this moment.”
Laura Wilkenson didn’t say, “I believed in myself.” She didn’t say, “I knew I could do it.” She said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You and I may not be preparing for the Olympic Games, but we all face challenges. Sometimes even insurmountable odds. On occasion, we become honest enough to think about sin and death. We realize that we have no chance of defeating either one. But because God is victory, and because Jesus came for us, we should bask in confidence.
I can see the things that stand against me and say, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
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