Have you ever heard the saying “You may have lost the battle, but not the war”? My dad prefers a different sentiment with a similar meaning, “You can lose 3 games, but still win the World Series”. Both of these mean the same thing: you don’t have to execute a contest perfectly in order to win victory in the end. Learning this concept has been particularly important to my Christian walk.
When I was a brand-new Christian, I really wanted to do everything just right. I felt like I was a disappointment to God every time I messed up and said a curse word, or listened to secular music, or had a wrong thought. I’d always heard that once people became a Christian, it wasn’t that they couldn’t live the way they did before, but that they didn’t want to.
Well, to be candid, there were things I did in my pre-salvation days that I still wanted to do after I asked Jesus to come live in my heart. I thought that it was supposed to be an instantaneous transformation that was manifest in every area of a new convert’s life so, when I failed to act, think, walk, and talk perfectly, I thought that meant that I wasn’t really a Christian. I knew that God could “fix” me overnight and I couldn’t understand why He wasn’t.
I began to feel so condemned and exhausted by this type of "all or nothing” thinking that I thought of just giving up more times than I can count. I remember crying out to God, saying “Lord, if it’s always this hard, there’s no way that I can keep it up. I don’t want to let You down. I’m tired of failing at this!" And I think that by admitting that I couldn’t do it finally allowed God to step in and show me some important truths.
Truth #1: Allowing the process of healing can teach us more than “instantaneous” deliverance. For instance, God can take away an addiction overnight but by allowing someone to go through the process of quitting, He teaches the person perseverance and dependence on Him, teaches appreciation for a life free from bondage, and in the process, gives them a tool for encouraging others in similar situations. I had to realize that just because my sinful desires didn’t magically melt away at my salvation, that didn’t mean that God was ignoring me.
Truth #2: We are human. And that means that on our own we are frail and weak and destined to stumble. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” God designed us, so He knows all about the chinks in our armor. It’s ok to admit that we need Him! God is not disappointed in me or in you for not “getting it right” all the time.
Truth #3: We need to learn the difference between conviction and condemnation. In Romans 8:1, the Bible teaches us that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. However, in Revelation 12:10, Satan is called the accuser of the brethren, who accuses us day and night. So, when you or I hear that voice in our head calling us a failure or telling us to give up, we can be assured that it isn’t God’s voice. We have to understand that the Lord corrects us in love and in doing so, is urging us to repentance, not to tell us to quit trying!
Don’t use temporary setbacks as an excuse to quit living for Jesus. In a boxing match, the fighter can get knocked down, but he has until the referee counts to ten to get back up and keep fighting. I don’t know what number we’re on, but I know it ain’t “10” yet, so we can’t just lie down and give up. The real Champ in our fight has never been defeated and we are blessed that He is in our corner! We might’ve been down, but I’m not out and neither are you!