When I was a kid growing up in church we used to sing this song, Victory in Jesus. And, whether it was the song or something else, it seemed like 'victory in Jesus' was a pretty popular idea around Calvary Community Church. Crazed tambourinists shouted it, lonely widows claimed it, drunks begged for it, and the choir hummed it in the background of the Sunday sermon. Consequently, I grew up in an ecosystem of victory chants and ejaculations, a veritable smorgasbord of Christian conquest.
I miss that.
For a time I was embarrassed by all the hootin' and hollarin' (as they liked to call it), but those good folks—gardeners of God's eternality, as I now recall—had something most people lack. And they had it in spades.
They had hope.
They believed that no matter how bad things got, no matter how dire their straits or grim their chances, that God's Spirit was on the move to save, to heal, to rescue, and to restore. They had hope when it looked like pure fantasy, and they had it for the most ridiculous things. They hoped money would show up on their door steps at night while they slept, and they hoped their children would be unable to sleep because God's Spirit would convict them of their sin and they would fall to their knees in spectacular repentance, they had hope for divine deliverance and supernatural healing, hope for jobs and better jobs, hope for mystical romances that practically fell from heaven. And, lo and behold (for those are, indeed, perfectly suitable words here), they would find money and receive gifts, and their children did run to the altar to get both saved and married (sometimes simultaneously). Not always. But lots. And when they didn't get what they wanted, or get it in the way they desired, that didn't stop them from shouting, claiming, walking, and believing for victory.
When I look at my midwestern town, with all its economic woes and cultural false-starts, I think we could use a little victory. I think we outta start drinking that victory Kool Aid. Because those folks that raised me had it right.
We've got something to hope for, because we've got someone on whom to rest all our hopes. And Christ Jesus didn't just make a few promises about a better life later on, he won the decisive victory against the powers of darkness on the cross. He defeated death, he made a show of the powers of Satan and his subordinates, and he reversed the effects of sin on the human soul.
And because he won the victory, and because we are united with him through his Holy Spirit, we share in that victory too.
Victory in Jesus, my savior forever.
And this victory isn't at all like the victories recognized by the rest of the world. This isn't competition or comparison or domination or control. This isn't about "success" and it's certainly not about "winning" (apologies to Charlie Sheen, of course). Christian victory is about more than external results. Oh sure—those have a role to play and they're important in their own right—but make no mistake, what God wants to do IN his people is far more significant than what he wants his people to accomplish. His work is making us like him. Whether or not we're like him and famous or like him and beautiful is less consequential than whether or not we're loving like him or self-sacrificial like him.
That's why Christian victory is about overcoming obstacles, and demolishing strongholds, about rising above adversity and putting to death our sinful nature in cooperation with the Spirit of God.
Because the victory isn't really ours. It's his, but we get to share it. The victory is in us, like something we've got to incubate or gestate, not beyond us like something we've got to achieve, or reach, or perform.
So if you find yourself hopeless, despondent, melancholy and hurting, try and remember this: he won, so you can live in victory. Get started by telling him thank you, and then start thinking hard about what he wants you to do with it.