“And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” (1 Chronicles 18:13) This is part of the Chronicler’s glowing account of the reign of King David, even more glowing than the account of Samuel and Kings. If indeed the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went, and this is not merely the Chronicler rose-colored view of things, then we must confess that this is not the way the Lord usually works.
Perhaps we would all like to know victory, or success, like David seemingly did. However, the fact is that most of us do not. I do not think there is anyone in life that experiences unbridled success. Most people, even ones who are eventually successful in life, experience a considerable amount of failure first. Remember, according to Samuel, David spent a lot of time hanging out in caves, on the run from the law of the land, before he became king.
When we experience weakness and failure, then we are in good company, for our Lord did too. We are told that there were places where Jesus could not heal many people, because of their lack of faith. In the end, all of Jesus’ disciples betrayed, denied, or abandoned him. From a worldly point of view, death on a cross was not the death of a victor.
Yet, here is the irony. Jesus’ very name means “Yahweh is victorious,” and the thing that seemed most to be a failure, death on a cross, was the means of victory over sin, Satan, and death.
It seems that God prefers to continue working the same way in us that he did in his Son. God works his greatest victories, not through our strengths, but through our weaknesses and seeming failures.
Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was. However, the Lord did not remove it. Instead, the Lord answered Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
C. S. Lewis once wrote in a letter to his friend, Arthur Greeves: “It is not your business to succeed, but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with God.”
The question is: will we trust the Lord to work in and through our weaknesses and even our failures, rather than demanding success, victory?