How do we find victory in our busy lives, especially when feelings come and go, ministry and family situations seem continually fluid, and hope appears to have a mind of its own? I suggest three things for you to consider when it comes to finding victory on an individual basis as well as a ministerial one: Acknowledgment, Adjustment, and Advancement.
Acknowledging God’s providence in our life is not as easy as it seems. Have you ever felt like your faith in God was monumental one day of the week, only to fade into ambiguity the next? The acknowledgment of God’s presence can be emotionally fleeting, but His presence is certain, with or without your propensity toward the dramatic or love for euphoria. We see this in young people all of the time. After a conference or retreat the kids are so excited, seemingly ready for any obstacle and temptation. They feel God’s intimacy and as a result the world is manageable, problems are minimal, and obstacles malleable. Within a weak, or often a few days, these same kids begin to question their experience because the feeling has waned. To believe that God is with us, even when we don’t feel Him, is the foundation for spiritual maturity.
We were made to “look up”. That which we are, as questioning entities, longs for solidification and meaning amidst the madness. As a whole, humanity longs to look up and see One who is greater than they have fully imagined. We often attempt to make God in our image and likeness, but what we need is One who is beyond our explanations. There must be a greater being than self. The other realization of God’s interest in His creation is found in that which we cannot entirely see with our senses. God has revealed Himself through signs and wonders, words and deeds, through time, and most specifically in the Covenants made with Israel. This interaction with creation by the Creator has made all the difference in calming our longing for stability and explanation. To acknowledge God’s interest in the insignificance of the human experience is to begin to see that life is worth more than we have previously imagined. God cares for us, and he cares for the kids who stumble into church every week. He was present to those men and women of old, but He is also here with us today.
Adjusting to this acknowledgment of God’s interest in humanity is what repentance is all about. When we begin to understand that God’s love is best expressed in time with the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, we realize that if there is in fact a Creator then we must submit to His authority. Thankfully we have found this Creator to be captivated with us, in spite of our brokenness. Jesus’ demonstration of love in time brings the greatest consolation to us. His being bruised for our iniquities, struck for our ignorance, crucified because of our sins, will hopefully cause us to react in a way that moves us from mediocrity towards intensity. To adjust our progression towards our final end, so that it falls in step with the will of God, is to walk in the Spirit. We long for answers and meaning, and the gift of God’s love for us, allows us to adjust from the path of selfishness to the one of holiness. St. Paul speaks a lot about what we once were, having embraced the things of this world, but he speaks about the need to adjust to the will of God in phrases such as putting on the armor of God, walking in the spirit, or even running a race, that has greater meaning than a temporal crown or award. We are in the greatest game, the most meaningful of journeys, and as such our life should adjust to true Life. It is our choice.
The final insight worth considering when it comes to obtaining victory is that of advancement. We must advance and take the land. When the children of Israel left the confines of Egyptian captivity, having been heard by the God who cares, they needed to adjust to the will of God, but also be obedient. Advancement is not about bullying our will into a scenario, nor is it to force the proverbial square peg into a round whole. To advance in the victory of God is to be wrapped up in His will in a completely free and loving response. This, of course, is modeled by Christ. We are called to be like Christ, and therefore we must advance into the new land, the promised land. When God called the children of Israel out of Israel, He didn’t lead them from one place without having a destination in mind. Unfortunately Israel had a very difficult time advancing into the victory of God’s loving promise, because they didn’t truly adjust to His will. In other words, it wasn’t only an emotional deliverance for Israel, but also a physical and spiritual one. We must be obedient when God calls us, and this is how victory will be enacted in our life, even when the feelings have gone.
Think about the kids you are working with, the parish staff, the parents, and ask yourself this question: in what way do they need to advance in their spirituality? Do the kids we speak to need to advance in victory over serious vice, and to leave the bondage of captivity so that they can lay hold of the promised land? The people that we are ministering to, oftentimes benefit the best after we have ourselves struggled through various obstacles and circumstances. In other words, when we acknowledge God is reaching out to us, it is more effective in our sharing with others God’s interest in them. When we fall in step with God’s will and repent in areas where our desire took precedence over the Lord’s, we can lovingly recognize why our friends and neighbors struggle in a sin and offer suggestions on how they can be victorious over it. When we advance into the promised land of victory in our life, we can confidently encourage other’s that their success is just one step away.
So where are you at today? Is it possible that you’ve not acknowledged God’s involvement in your situation? It is possible that you have forgotten to adjust to His will in the scenario you’re most concerned about? Is it possible that you are being called to advance into the victory God has waiting for you? Don’t wander in the wilderness, because you have already been given the land!