The banner was meant to celebrate a victory. It became the symbol of an unpopular war. “Mission Accomplished” it read above the head of George W. Bush as he delivered a prepared speech to rally and thank the troops. Sectarian animosity and the difficulty of rebuilding a splintered nation were underestimated that day. History can be hard on the overconfident.
This is not a blog about the war. Whether you think it was justified or not is not my concern here. I want to talk about securing your victories in life. Whether your war was on poverty, depression, unemployment or illness… if you conquer on those battle fields you do want to celebrate. If that celebration is filled with thanksgiving to God… that is fitting and proper.
But you do want to stay vigilant as well. There may be more battles to come. Peter warns: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The Mission is never accomplished in this lifetime… and overconfidence can bring defeat greater than our once perceived victory. So how do you secure the victory?
Take a lesson from Abraham. In Genesis 14 he finds himself in a conflict to save the life of his nephew Lot. Verse 14 says: “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three thousand and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” Verse 15 declares a victory: “He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.”
What I want to look at is how Abram secured his victory. He accomplished this in two ways:
1) He Gave Back Some of His Gain.
Verses 17-20 tell the strange tale of Melchizedek. He is the king of Salem and a priest of the Most High God. This man is mentioned by the New Testament author of Hebrews: “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. 2 Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” 3 There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.” (Hebrews 7:1-3)
According to these New Testament verses… Abraham was giving a tenth of his spoils back to God by giving them to this “priest forever.”
Have you been delivered from unemployment and poverty by obtaining a new job? Praise God! And then give back to him by giving to the work of God… and to others suffering from the same enemies. Recovering from illness? Seek to relieve the suffering of others. Secure your victory by helping others in their battle.
I have a challenge for you today. Work out a plan, based on a percentage of your income to advance God’s Kingdom. Give some to church, to charities, to Random Acts of Kindness. Have some kind of plan. And then pray that God will help you implement it. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote: “No man is so poor as to have nothing worth giving: as well might the mountain streamlets say that they have nothing to give the sea because they are not rivers. Give what you have. To someone it may be better than you dare to think.”
2) He Rejected the Rewards of the World.
Another king greets him, the king of Sodom. He wants to strike a deal with Abram. “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” (v.21) Abram refuses to receive anything from him. He didn’t want to be indebted to this wicked king in any way. “…I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear that you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.” (v.23)
In the same way, we need to steer clear of dishonest gain. Abram had a choice here. Are you more like him or do you have the mentality of the King of Sodom?: “Everything comes at a price.” “Strike a deal.” “Get in good with others for future reward.” Abram trusted in the Lord, not in his connections to aid him in future battles.
I have watched many overcome difficulties and then disappear from church… enticed by the opportunities their new found freedom offered them. If you were faithful in battle, remain true after the victory.
I meant no disrespect to former president Bush… I believe him to be a good man. But we all succumb to a little overconfidence once in awhile. Often times afterward a civil war erupts within us. Don’t underestimate that roaring lion. Secure your victories through generosity toward others and greater faith in the Lord.