"The first step to victory is to recognize the enemy." - Corrie Ten Boom
As we take a moment or two together today, I'd like us to consider the wisdom of those simple words. There are many steps we can take "toward" victory, but none as profound as the very first one. If Corrie's insight holds true, we come to the place of actually taking the "right" first step by recognizing exactly who the enemy is! For some of us, it is that tiny voice within which continues to limit our progress toward good in our lives because we are believing the lies it tells us. Last week, our pastor spoke on the importance of not putting too much stock in how others see us - because if we do, we will find ourselves burdened down under the load of much "performance". Performance which never really measures up, never really quits, and never really helps us realize who we are in God's eyes. I think for many of us our #1 enemy is ourselves - the voices we listen to in our heads, those voices which tug at our sense of guilt and self-consciousness. Until we recognize the tremendous influence of those voices, we won't get very far in this life! The first step for us to move "toward" victory over those voices is to recognize the untruth in the message they continually bring!
You have kept record of my days of wandering. You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them. When I pray, Lord God, my enemies will retreat, because I know for certain that you are with me. I praise your promises! I trust you and am not afraid. No one can harm me. I will keep my promises to you, my God, and bring you gifts. You protected me from death and kept me from stumbling, so that I would please you and follow the light that leads to life. (Psalm 56:8-13 CEV)
Unfortunately, as long as we listen to the voices, believing that we are "less than" or simply "can never measure up", we will continue to live less than victorious lives. As long as we are listening to these voices, Satan has no need to really focus on our lives because we are doing all the work of keeping ourselves from victory! In order to recognize a lie, we must find the truth. As long as we believe the lies, we are in a state of wandering aimlessly through life, never really rising to the potential God has for us. Lies limit our progress, halting growth and hindering freedom from past regrets.
We are just about a week away from entering into a new year. As the new year begins to dawn upon us, we have an excellent opportunity to "start again". Many will make resolutions to do this but not that, eat less of this and more of that, hang out with a different crowd, do a little better at saving, and the list goes on. Others will not make resolutions because they know the futility of all the years which have come before in which those simply went by the wayside sometime before we could flip the calendar to February! So, whether you are a "believer" in this whole "resolution" thing or not, let me just take a moment to remind you of some pretty important stuff you need to know as you enter this new year.
- God keeps records much better than we ever can. The problem with our record-keeping is our "slant" on how the books should add up. We see life through our own perspective, keeping account of each success or failure in our own unique way. What we also do is compare how well we do with our resolutions compared to how well another does. When we stop keeping record of our own successes and failures, and begin to trust God to "keep the books" on our lives, what we find is that the "accounting" is somewhat different than we see it. If you examine scriptures, you will see evidence of this thing called "grace". Grace is God's method of accounting - he takes away ALL our demerits or debits and replaces them with merits or what you might consider to be a "credit" on the right side of the page! God's method of accounting replaces each of our failures with an entry which merely reads "GRACE". The "debit" has been erased because "grace" covers the debit with not only what "settled the account", but what actually brings it into a "positive balance"!
- God doesn't react to our failures in judgment, but in love. The wandering of our hearts and minds into areas of compromise which leads to failure and feelings of guilt are not things will hold against the one who repents of his/her wanderings. Whenever we are willing to say we "muffed up", God is willing to restore. His love bids us to come to him - his grace makes a way for us to actually do it!
- God does more with an honest declaration of our need for his help than he will ever do with our "best behavior". What God delights in more than anything else if for us to finally recognize the enemy within - the things we believe about ourselves which are just totally contrary to the way he sees us. Our pastor spoke of the importance of not focusing on what others think of us, but on what God says about us. I want us to go one step further and begin to focus less on what we have come to accept as "truth" about the permanence of our "failure" and focus more on what God does with each failure that is brought before the cross of Christ. We go miles and miles in the shoes of a guilty person - God wants our wandering in those shoes to end! He doesn't see us as guilty - in fact, he gives us new shoes - feet shod with the gospel of truth! We replace lies with truth - just as we might change a pair of shoes. It seems elementary and a little too simplified for most of us who have walked all those miles in our "guilt shoes", but hear this loud and clear - God has new shoes for all who will allow him to "fit" them to our feet!
We don't have to face the new year with "unbalanced books" or "guilt-ridden wandering". In fact, we have the opportunity to listen to some new promises from God's Word - allowing those words to sink in deeply and change our perspective on how we see ourselves. We don't have to dread the year ahead, for by grace it is a new path and a new dawning of righteousness within. Just sayin!