Checkmate

Keep Calm and Read a Psalm 44:3-5:

“For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword,
Nor did their own arm save them;
But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance,
Because You favored them.
You are my King, O God;
Command victories for Jacob.
Through You we will push down our enemies;
Through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us.”

His brows furrow. A bead of sweat escapes his forehead and trickles down his red cheeks. His eyes dart back and forth over the board, considering each piece. How to pull this off? His breathing quickens. His hands fidget. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and shifts the piece forward. He lets the breath out and opens his eyes to see how his opponent reacted to his genius move. He sees nothing but an empty chair. “Oh, right, silly me!” He chuckles as he gets up and hobbles around to the other side of the chessboard. He stares at the other-color pieces and quickly sees an opportunity. He shifts a piece, knocking over the one he just moved. “Checkmate!” He smiles at his opponent, but realizes there is no one over there to grovel in defeat. He promptly switches chairs and moans at his opponent’s genius. “I’m so good I can defeat myself!”

Crazy, right? Sounds like the little video short “Geri’s Game” at the beginning of Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. Have you ever done something like that—played against yourself during a bored (or is it board?) game or a video game? It takes a special kind of skill—and a special kind of boredom. Some people have a knack for wasting time.

But if you play yourself, you have total control over both sides. You get to choose which side wins and which one faces defeat. That reminds me of God’s Sovereignty—His kingliness on display in Psalm 44. The Psalmist begins by saying he’s heard all about God’s victories with his ancestors. Little things like parting the Red Sea, bringing ten plagues, conquering nations, overthrowing giants—you know, everyday stuff for such a powerful God. Child’s play. Then the Psalmist asks this Great and Sovereign King of the Universe to “command victories for Jacob.”

How can God do that? Well, He controls both sides of the board. He is in full control of this world’s events and can decide who wins. So the Psalmist asks Him to allow Israel to win in battle—to “push down” and “trample” their enemies. He admits he can’t do it himself. Like his ancestors, his sword and bow and strength are no match. But God’s arm and beaming Face brought the victory in the past, and now he asks the same for his day.

And so should we. Except, we have an advantage on the Psalmist. Maybe you’re facing spiritual battles. Satan has you where he wants you to devour you with lusts, pride, or worry. Or maybe it’s a physical battle with cancer or death. Whatever it is, know that God our King has already commanded victory for us. For those in Christ, we are already on the winning side of this war of life. Our spiritual battles were won at Calvary where Christ dealt with our sin so we would never have to be slaves to it again (see Romans 6). And in our battle with physical problems, Christ has guaranteed us as the victor when He conquered death, promising painless eternal life in His presence after our weak bodies die (see 1 Corinthians 15).

Well, folks, it looks likes that’s a wrap. The battle’s over. The game is won. Don’t bother switching sides. If you’re in Christ, you’ve already won. Your victory over sin and suffering has been commanded by a Sovereign God. All you must do is live like it.

-Matthew W., SC

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