"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8: 31, 35, 37. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Maya Angelou, Author, Poet.
At the end of every race or contest, a winner is declared. In almost every instance there is a medal, a trophy, a certificate; some object that confirms the victor. We are never left wondering who won. I have never given much thought to this, but now that I am examining the nuances in life, things taken for granted are now explored with a closer lens. Winning is the culmination of a huge amount of effort expended toward a goal which has been met. It is worthy of celebration; at the very least acknowledgement. The prize awarded the winner validates his/her the right to declare that he/she has been victorious. In the olympics the three top competitors who have finished their course stand on an elevated platform, a formal ceremony is held in their honor for all the world to see that they are winners. They have placed first, second and third. A gold, bronze and silver medal are awarded respectively. Benefits of their award is not only world-wide recognition, but also financial compensation from those who want their products to be attached to a winner.
No one really understands what drives some people to sacrifice so much and to focus exclusively on a singular goal to achieve things that seem so out of reach for others. In many cases, they achieve against incredible odds. Let's consider Simone Biles (Olympic gold medalist and her sister were adopted out of foster care). If we had to hazard a guess, we might say they are driven by something on the inside that propels them to rise to the challenge and to grab the prize. Whatever the back story is, the victor proudly raises his/her hand to demonstrate that "yes, I am a conqueror." To be fair, some excel because it is expected; family of go-getters who provide the resources and support. In a few cultures, if the participant does not win, there are dire consequences. They too, however, take a bow and are recognized for their accomplishments. Either way, their victory is made known. Why such fanfare? Why not simply collect your prize and go home? Perhaps not to forget or perhaps to affirm for themselves and to show others that they, too, can achieve such heights.
What about those who have not received a medal per se, but have survived harsh challenges, and are yet victorious? Life brings many trying situations; some noted in the scripture above. Paul is encouraging us to stand firm in our faith because we are not only going to win in the end, but we are going to win now. He is under conviction that because he knows God's purpose for his life, he could persevere. Further, Paul is certain beyond a doubt that in his sufferings and trials and even death, he could conquer through the One who loved him. God is always with us. We may not feel His presence, but He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5. Nothing and no-one can take God's love and protection from us. That makes us more than conquerors. Shout this from the roof top. Proclaim the victory!
In renown author and poet, Maya Angelou's novel, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," she delivers a message of hope. In this autobiographical narrative, Angelou's metaphor of a caged bird reveals that "despite the oppressed life of the caged bird, the bird demonstrates its resolve and courage in the face of adversity by singing at the top of its lungs." Notably, the caged bird's harsh environment does not affect its integrity, and the confined bird transcends its unfortunate situation by singing." It is declaring victory through song.
Instead of remaining down and feeling sorry for ourselves, we should remember God's unfailing love and promises. We never have to pull ourselves up alone because He motivates and empowers us to get up. His timing isn't just good, it's perfect. He is omniscient and knows all things in the past, present and future. Nothing takes Him by surprise, even the pain and heartache that occurs oftentimes in everyday living. The Lord sees every aspect of our lives including our needs and desires. In His great wisdom, He understands what is best for us. His divine schedule for our lives is always perfect and achieves His good purpose. God's word shows us how to walk through times of adversity. It reminds us of His love, tells us about His purposes for trials, encourages us to endure and strengthens us in the process. Life will get hard, but we are winners who do not have to fear anyone or anything. What we have to do is declare that we are winners and believe and trust in the One who guarantees our victory. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy." Psalm 107:2.
I recently experienced a situation which took me by surprise, and needless to day, I was rather distraught. Kind of personal so I won't give the specifics, but suffice it to say that I was caught off guard and felt helpless. After succumbing to a short lived pity party, I remembered that I was a champion. I said this out loud and in full volume, "I have the victory. No temporary setback can stop me from achieving what I have been destined to achieve." I have the greatest, most powerful, loving, omniscient, friend rooting for me; One who gave His life for me. I am a victor because of what was done on my behalf. God gave us His best; His son. He will never withhold any good thing from us. I am a winner "sure enough." The greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for his friends." John 15:13.
When the cares of life get you down, look in, and then look up!
1. What's happening on the inside? In the movie Alita Battle Angel, an amnesiac cyborg girl who sets out to learn about her destiny after she awakens in a new body in a future world with no past memory of who she is. Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City. But, it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue from her past. She has unique fighting abilities that those powers will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friend, her family, and the world she has grown to love. Now I ask you, what is on the inside?; the source of your strength? "The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. Exodus 15:2. Possess this strength and you will be able to face any foe.
2. Declare Yourself a Winner! Shout the victory! Why? So you can hear yourself and be reminded that you have won. Every battle has already been won. As the song says, The Battle is Not Yours, It's the Lord's. If you believe this, tell somebody and when they watch your example, they will be encouraged to follow your lead. (You, too, will be encouraged). Like Paul, you must be convinced of this. When adversity presents itself, and it will, you will be able to stand flatfooted and stare it down knowing that because of who you are and who loves you, things are going to work out in your favor. It will be a learning experience to bring about the shaping of your character that will enable you to be all that you are deemed to be on this journey we call life. "O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand." Isaiah 64:8.
3. This too shall pass. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30:5. According to Dr. Charles F. Stanley, God will not only limit our trials and tribulations, He will draw us deeper into relationship with Himself and work everything for our good. Breathe, knowing that your back is covered! There is a song that we sing, "Trouble Don't Last Always." Nothing does, actually. Just when you think that you can't take it anymore, rescue appears. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not an oncoming train. Smile. As we move forward, there will always be something that comes up to move us back. It may be sickness, broken relationships, or financial setbacks, etc. But no matter, we are covered. We're okay. Speak to yourself in a booming and loving tone; I am in God's forever family; my help is eternal. "For those who are led by the spirit of God are the children of God with all the privileges a child of the king may expect." Romans 8:17. We are heirs.
4. If God is for us, there is no one who can come against us and win. No one. God is a mighty fortress. "Psalm 46." Our enemies will fall by our feet. In other words, they will be rendered ineffective against us. All challenges will be met without anxiety knowing that we have the victory because of who is holding us up. We are more than conquerors. God is there to fight our battles, and we are eternally secure. This is something to sing and shout about! Look up, and verbalize thanks for this blessed assurance.
You've got the victory! Tell yourself and tell someone else! This is your gold medal!!
Here's to living victoriously!
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Happy Mother's Day!