May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
    and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.
Psa. 20:5, NLT

I had the privilege of hearing Paul Young, author of The Shack, speak a couple of years ago at a writer’s conference. He began his address by saying, “Most of you probably hate me. You’ve been writers for years and worked diligently to perfect your craft and get published. And then I come along, write one book, and it becomes a best seller. I never wanted to be a writer; I only wrote this book because my wife hounded me to do it as a Christmas gift for our children.” We laughed.

Getting this book out was God’s triumphant victory. It was His message and no obstacle was too big for Him. As writers of the message, that’s worth rejoicing over! And yet…Paul was right, we did hate him just a little. Why couldn’t God have used one of us who, as he said, have written for years and worked diligently to get published? We’ve had success, but nothing like a best seller. We had a small case of Victory Envy.

Have you experienced this? It’s not that you don’t want others to triumph. You do. You just have a hard time applauding and praising, when the victory banner waves over their tent again, and not yours. Do any of these scenarios fit?

·         Your friends exercise regularly, eat the right things without going overboard, have their spending under control, and enjoy their jobs and home life. You feel unhinged in just about every sphere. Their victory banner makes you feel like a loser.
·         The guy you went to seminary with is pastoring a church bursting at the seams with spiritual zeal, while you struggle to make ends meet, leading a small flock mired in tradition and boredom.
·         Your friends’ children are on fire for the Lord – becoming missionaries, doctors, teachers, winning the Nobel prize (well…maybe). Your kids, however, are having trouble getting started in life. They have children before marriage, no good prospects, are in a same sex relationship, or divorced. They don’t have a job or goals, are hooked on drugs or alcohol, or are in jail.
·         The new, young employee at work has your boss’s eyes and ears. He’s already given him a raise and increased responsibilities, some of which used to be yours. You’ve worked there 20 years and hoped for a big promotion this year, but rumor has it, the boss is considering him for the job.
·         There’s someone at church who exudes Spirit-filled charisma. People flock to them for counsel, prayer, and soak up their teaching like water-deprived sponges.  You work hard on your class lessons/ministry/service, but it seems like no one wants or appreciates what you have to offer. Sometimes you feel alone.  

The details may vary, but I’m willing to bet you identify with one of these examples. If you tried to pray Psalm 20 for this individual, the words would catch in your throat. We may only experience an occasional twinge, but if left unchecked, this envy will eat us alive. How, then, can we rid ourselves of it before it poisons our relationship with God and others? 

In my struggle against this God has given me three spiritual truths to chew on:

·         He is sovereign
·         He may be using this to develop maturity or obedience in me
·         Others must be willing to receive Him

Since God is all-knowing and has good purposes for our lives, He knows which soldier is best fit for each battle. We may experience victory another day, or in another way, or what we have accomplished may not be revealed until heaven. That is God’s decision. Because I love God and trust Him, I can praise Him for each victory, even if it’s not mine personally.

Secondly, God shows me where I lack the maturity or humility necessary to handle victory in that area. Sometimes He has a greater lesson for me that would not be accomplished with success. Best of all, learning to applaud others in the body of Christ builds unity, Christlike character, and glorifies God.

Finally, spiritual victories depend on timing. We may be just as faithful a worker, parent, friend, or minister as the one rejoicing under the victory banner, but the ones we’re praying to reach may not be ready yet to submit to God’s work in their life. That doesn’t mean we’re a failure; it’s just not time to party yet.

Perhaps you already noticed this, but the name on the victory banner is not mine or yours. It’s God’s banner and God’s victory. I needed that reminder. So I don’t know about you, but today I choose to whoop it up for others writing best-selling novels and nonfiction, spreading the good news about Christ. I will applaud those who are leading people to Jesus and witnessing miraculous healings. I will praise God for using each member of this great family of God to do His work around the world. He is the real Victor; He just lets us wave the banner now and then.