Losing

Jesus never loses a battle, but sometimes we do. 
It hurts so much that we tend to lose perspective on life when we lose a battle, a valuable asset, a trusted relationship or someone we love.  Victories are fun!  We take them in stride and pack them away into our collection of memories to be recalled when needed.  Chances are we don’t learn much from victories; they serve to affirm what we already know.  Losses, however, are a school, “the school of hard knocks,” it is called.  In this school our skills are examined and expanded and our philosophies are tested and adjusted.

If Jesus has the power to win all the time, why does the believer ever experience failure? 

There are too many reasons to explore in this devotional, but here are a few:

  • Sometimes we mess up. We lose when we let our discipline slip or when we yield to temptation.  When this happens we must accept the responsibility, repent, and pray for mercy.
  • Sometimes our methods are wrong.  God will let failure come our way when He wants us to abandon methods that do not please Him.  He loves us more than He loves what we can do for Him and He is pleased when we do things in His ways, not ours.
  • Sometimes are motives are wrong.  Improper motives can lurk deep in our spirits, unknown to us but most displeasing to God.  An unbroken stream of wins will keep these poisons out of sight so God sometimes lets us fall on our face to get our attention so we will seek His forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Sometimes others fail us.  Our faithfulness to God extends as far as our will, but we are not isolated from the failures of the people in our lives.  The wickedness, anger, deceit, and violence of the people around us can touch us in painful ways.  Think of the terrible bus accident several years ago in Kentucky where a drunk driver killed several young people returning from a church outing.  In these losses, God is an able counselor, a comfort and a friend.

Sometimes we lose and there seems to be no reason. 
When our hearts are right and our methods are pure and our faithfulness to God is intact, and we lose a battle or a loved one anyway, this is the toughest kind of loss.  There is no one to blame, no faulty methods to correct, no hidden sin to uncover and deal with.  There is no one to blame but God.

The book of Psalms contains prayers that boldly question God for His lack of action.  These make as uncomfortable as the “hallelujah” psalms make us happy.  What is the lesson?  Simply this:  It is not a sin to question God in such matters.  He can handle our inquiries.  He understands our doubts.  He remembers that we are human, not divine.  When we question from a standpoint of love, the Lord listens and comforts us with His presence, if not with all the answers to our questions.

Losses must be grieved; severe losses must be deeply grieved.
This is how God made us and it is not a sin to grieve a loss.  The psalms set an example of pouring our grief out to God. The key to this process of grief must also include solitude and listening.  “Beside still waters, He restores my soul.” In the quiet moments, after the crying is done and the tears have dried, after our legitimate questions have made the journey from our wounded hearts to His great, healing heart, God will speak to us.  We may not even have words for what He says, but He will speak.  He will be our solace.  He will touch us deep inside where no one else can reach.  He promises a greater day, a higher good, and a time to come when all our tears will be swept away by His own wounded hand.

Scriptures:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Psalm 88
O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.  … You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.  I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you… I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me? …. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.
Revelation 7:17
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, though You are the Victor over all, You suffered losses in Your earthly ministry. One of the twelve men You chose to follow You betrayed You instead. There was a village where You did not heal the sick and rescue the demon-possessed because of the low level of faith found there. In spite of Your creative and careful teaching about the coming atoning death and the subsequent resurrection, the disciples just didn’t get it. So You understand this world where sometimes we lose. I will take your advice and shake the dust of failure from my feet and follow You to the next thing. Through You I will win! Hallelujah!

Song:
Victory in Jesus
Words and Music: Eugene Bartlett

1. I heard an old, old story, How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins And won the victory.

Refrain:
O victory in Jesus, My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory, Beneath the cleansing flood.

2. I heard about His healing, Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus, Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t To me the victory.

Refrain

3. I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing, And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there The song of victory.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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