Living Victoriously Isn’t An Anomaly!
I hope you had a chance to read last week’s blog by Kathy Gross. If not, you can find it by clicking on the link below.
Her tribute to a dear friend and fellow educator, Lori, was incredibly inspiring. Lori’s example set a high bar for the rest of us. Her legacy of love, compassion, care, concern, and joy left me reflecting on my own actions and past practices as an educator. I must admit I have a tendency during times of reflection to focus on where I fell short. Maybe you do, too. You may be tempted to mutter phrases like these.
· “My example doesn’t even come close to what it should be.”
· “I’ve made so many past failures, how could God use me?”
· “I’m afraid to be bold with my faith. What if I get in trouble?”
· “I don’t know enough about God and the Bible. What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?”
These types of thoughts can lead us into a spiral of self-doubt and condemnation, neither of which comes from God. Let me say that again a little differently. If you catch yourself feeling shame or guilt for not being the good Christian educator you should be, I want you to know the enemy is sabotaging you. He wants you to beat yourself up so you will miss the touch of God’s grace and mercy in your life.
Priscilla Shirer, in her book Fervent (page 28) noted, “Condemnation always leads to guilt-laden discouragement, while conviction—though painful in pointing out our wrongdoing—still somehow encourages and lifts us, giving us hope to rebuild on.” Sometimes the line between condemnation and conviction can be blurry. We all have weaknesses and sin; unfortunately, this will always be a part of our lives on earth. Satan wants to discourage and defeat us, so he condemns. God, on the other hand, wants to love and empower us, so He convicts.
I know this isn’t the perfect analogy, but indulge me for a moment. When children in our classrooms make poor choices, we have a responsibility as the teacher (i.e., to discipline and administer consequences). As Christian educators, our intent when disciplining children is not to demoralize or condemn them. Rather, our intent is to teach them how to make better choices in the future. We desire for them to learn from their errors so that when they are faced with similar situations, they will be convicted to do the right thing. Now magnify this 100%, and just maybe we can begin to grasp God’s desire for us when we fail. God is good (Psalm 107:1), and His purposes for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11); therefore, His conviction is for our good as well.
As sinful beings, conviction will most likely be a daily experience. Instead of allowing Satan to condemn us with shame and guilt, we can flip the narrative and actually welcome God’s conviction! Conviction is an opportunity to come clean and let God’s grace and mercy transform us. It might sound something like this.
“Lord, I messed up today! I lost my patience with Theresa. Forgive me. May your kindness flow through me. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to stay in control and help Theresa be all she can be.”
God’s conviction should always lead us to repentance, but repentance isn’t something to fear. Repentance points us to a loving Father who cares enough to help us out of our mess, and help us He will (1 John 1:9)!
Satan is real. He wants you to believe people like Lori are an anomaly. He wants us to think that living life victoriously is only for the super spiritual, the knowledgeable, or the people who seem to have it all together. Satan is wrong. Don’t believe his deception. Like Lori, we can be educators who are ambassadors for Christ. We can love the unlovely. We can show compassion. We can demonstrate care and concern. We can do our work as unto the Lord. We can exhibit joy in our spirit. We can live victorious and fruitful lives!
I realize this may sound like “pie in the sky.” You may even be secretly wondering how this can be true for you. I get it. I have been a Christian for a long time, but I can honestly say I haven’t always acted like it. Looking back I can easily identify seasons in my life that were barren and unproductive. It’s hard to admit, but it is true. I’m so grateful God doesn’t give up on us. Aren’t you? I don’t have all the answers, but I’m learning the victorious Christian life is possible when our faith is displayed through humility and obedience. I want to briefly unpack what I mean by this.
It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of faith when it comes to living victoriously. Faith is a word that is frequently thrown around in Christian circles. It’s easy to say, “I have faith,” but the Bible says, “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Living by faith goes far beyond what we know or what we even say. Living by faith is trusting God enough to do something. For example, I know my car will take me to school, but just knowing this won’t get me anywhere. I have to get in the car, turn the key, and drive it to school. I have to trust the car enough to act. When it comes to faith, the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “Do I trust God enough to do what He says?” The answer to this question will determine our actions. We act on what we believe (Hebrews 11).
Want to live victoriously? Live by faith. Act as if God is telling the truth!
There are many actions we could take to live victoriously, but two are at the forefront of my mind: humility and obedience.
When our faith is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are fully aware of our status before a mighty God. As the Scriptures say,“No one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Lives characterized by humility acknowledge we are nothing without Christ. Our need to be “all that and a bag of chips” has to be demolished and replaced with something greater; we need to surrender to God and live lives of service to others. Paul spoke about this to the Philippians:
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8
I find these verses very humbling. Jesus, who is God, humbled himself to the position of a slave. He wasn’t worried about what others thought. He didn’t have to be in the limelight. He was driven by His love for us. Serving was never beneath Him; instead, it was a display of His goodness. I’m not sure I will ever grasp the magnitude of this until I get to Heaven. Regardless, His goodness, His love, and His sacrifice should propel you and me to do as Paul said – put others’ interests above our own and practice lives of humility.
Want to live victoriously? Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)
I’m sure you also noticed in the Philippians verses that in His humility, Jesus was always obedient to the Father. His obedience was a matter of life and death for you and me. Jesus had a choice. We know He prayed three agonizing prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking God to take the cup of suffering away from him (Matthew 26:36-44). Despite this, He obeyed the Father. There is so much we could say here, but for me, I am most taken by how His obedience was motivated by love – love for the Father, love for me, and love for you (John 15:12-13).
I want this to be true for my life as well. I don’t want my obedience to be an act of duty but an act of love. Obedience to God proves our love for Him (1 John 5:2-3), demonstrates our faithfulness to Him (1 John 2:3-6), glorifies Him in the world (1 Peter 2:12), and opens avenues of blessing for us (John 13:17).
Want to live victoriously? Obey God.
Living victoriously doesn’t have to be an anomaly. Living a full, abundant, and victorious life is why Jesus came. It’s ours to claim when we put our faith into action through humility and obedience. Kick doubt, shame, and condemnation to the curb, and start living the life Jesus died for you to have! It’s going to be a great year. You are a victorious educator!
And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God
must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6