One Year Bible: I Kings 8:1-66, Acts 7:54-8:13; Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 17:1
“Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue
itself but just this power of always trying again.”
Down But Not Out
They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
Some people don’t like being reminded of their troubles. They think we ought to talk only of the positive things in life and leave out all the pessimistic stuff. They’d rather hear only of the sunshine of God’s grace and not the storm clouds of life’s difficulty.
Me too—that’s what I’d prefer. But isn’t that to ignore the fact that this thing called the Christian life is all about spiritual warfare—that we do have an Enemy who constantly seeks to destroy our very soul?
The psalmist understood quite well from history of Israel’s enemies—literal, foreign enemies who sought to defeat and enslave God’s people. These enemies were there right from the beginning (“from my youth”) and never really ever went away—Egypt, Edom, Moab, Philistia, Assyria, and Babylonia. These foreign, godless enemies oppressed Israel at various times, but each time God gave his people victory over them.
You have enemies, too. That’s not being pessimistic, that’s just being real. Unlike Israel, however, your enemies are not physical, flesh and blood adversaries; they are spiritual forces that attack you from within—your moral character, your emotional stability, and your spiritual vitality. They seek to weaken your resolve to trust in God’s sufficiency and obey his commands. They seek to enslave you to a life that is far less than God’s best. And perhaps like Israel, these enemies have “oppressed you from your youth.” In other words, the same doubts, fears, temptations and weaknesses you had as a young person, or as a young Christian, are still doing a number on you. Maybe they have had or even now have the upper hand in your life.
The psalmist would say to you, “Maintain your hope, don’t surrender your trust, strive to overcome every temptation, and get back up when you stumble. Whatever you do, don’t quit if you’ve failed. It may seem that you are down for the count, but you are not, because God will give you, just as he did Israel, victory over all of your enemies.”
Israel had enemies—and God gave victory over each one. You’ve got enemies, too, but God has already given you victory over each one through Christ’s victory over sin. Think about that: All of your adversaries have already been defeated—even if they don’t act like it. So go ahead and remind those enemies—depression, lust, anger, sickness, scarcity—that they are nothing but losers. And you, dear saint, are anything but!
“In all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.”
~ Paul of Tarsus, Romans 8:37
Yeah, they may have you down for now, but you are not out! Christians never are.