My mom has a bird feeder that sits right outside the nook window. It attracts some beautiful species–tufted titmice and blue jays and chickadees–that she can name at a glance. Of course, as any other avid birdwatcher knows, other animals not from the class “Ave” are attracted to it as well.
They started out standing in the dirt below the feeder, looking up at the prize with those black glassy eyes. Their bushy tails would wag in anticipation…then stiffen and turn-tail as they heard the howls of our golden retriever. But that didn’t keep them away forever. Soon enough, they were shimmying up the feeder’s pole, only to be stopped this time by the baffle. Luckily for this intruder, our baffle was not one of the rotating ones that sends furry beasts hurtling off into the bushes, but it was an ordinary black one that “baffled” the squirrel. For about half and hour. Then the little monsters discovered the bushes, which they could leap from and land solidly on the feeder’s roof. Victory!!! At times when we leave the house and our dog is pinned up for hours, the squirrels have a hay day munching on the seeds and nuts that were meant for our feathery friends.
Why this story?
Because Answer #3: Victory.
Lets look at this from a human perspective. I’m sure that you’ve had a horrendously long day at work, one where you are so tired and half-praying that a customer will just walk through the door and shoot you so the day will end. I had a day like that yesterday. But I bet you also remember what it was like when the “We’re Open!” sign got turned around to “Closed.” How did you feel when you walked out that door, paycheck and keys in hand? Victory!
Victory increases in proportion to what has been conquered. The light seems brighter and purer after driving through an underground tunnel than it does when you flick the light switch off and on. The longer the wait, the greater the cost, the harder the fight, the larger the obstacles….the more victory is waiting on the other side.
That is why it doesn’t make sense to say things like, “Speak life over your family and friends and all will be well” or “Jesus comes to bring you health, wealth, and happiness” or “the only courage you need is to live the life you want.” God doesn’t promise victory at the end of a carefree road. He wants us to have victory the same way Christ did….through trusting His Father…and by persevering and enduring the hatred and pain of earth.
“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7) By this “heritage” he means the victory that lasts through all eternity for Christ and his own. Right after that, in verse 8, He lists the people who will not receive that victory. What are the first two? The cowardly. The faithless.
So if victory is won at the end of a hard road, why does it make life worth it?
Because it is sweet….so sweet. Life is better, so much better for having fought and won than for having never fought at all. The conquest leads to an appreciation of calm, and the battle leads to an appreciation of beauty. Maybe it is the contrast between the war and the peace that follows it, or between the darkness and the light that comes after it. But life, with all its ups and downs, is worth it for the victory. And if you’ve ever been victorious, in ANYTHING–a math test, a relationship, a job offer, a parenting obstacle, a character quality, a trip, a financial problem, a health impediment–then you know what it feels like. You’ve tasted it. It was worth the fight, wasn’t it?
One of my favorite historical role models is Teddy Roosevelt. I got to study his life quite a bit in my junior year of high school, and actually followed that up by writing a research paper on him. Along with his inspiring, “Man in the Arena” speech, he has some other great quotes about victory. And this comes from a soldier, a leader, and a president…..and also the man who got punched in the eye while boxing, lost part of his sight, and never breathed a word about it…
What makes the game worth it?
The memory of making it through the tough passes and the long shots. The knowledge of having run the best you could. The happiness of having won the trophy. The after-party where everyone celebrates the win.