What Is Victory?
“And the world is passing away along with its desires,
but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
1 JOHN 2:17
What does it mean for us to get through this life in a victorious way? This is an important question to ask ourselves because all people have some form of belief or another of what gives us a meaningful life, and what gives us victory in life.
The Lord teaches us there is only one true victory in this life: a life lived in righteousness before God. This is the great meaning and victory He is calling us to in Christ, a life that truly wins the crown, a life that overcomes—how?—by living a righteous life in this present age; by doing the will of God.
The tragedy of mankind is how much we know we need meaning and victory, but we are slow to realize how righteous living through Christ is the true victory. What is equally tragic is how many Christians continue to trust in other ideas of meaning and victory, chasing “greatness”, ambition, pleasure, and self satisfaction, trusting that these will give them victory, and failing to see how fleshly these things still are. Yet the Lord continues to call out to mankind to see how vain these things are, and that there is only one true course to a victorious life—a holy life.
“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:6-8)
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
To turn to God in faith, trusting that he will judge all of mankind according to our deeds, and trust that righteous living is the true victory in this life, this is the great race of meaning and victory that Christ has set before us to win.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” (1 Peter 1:14-17)
Many of us need to understand that even in a “simple” life, we are still called to great holiness. We are called to give our all to living not to ourselves but to Christ (2 Cor 5:15); to studying the Word, walking in prayer, and pursuing this perfection in Christ with every effort we can give (2 Pet 1:5)—that is to pursue the great victory Christ has purchased for our lives! At the same time, many need to realize that “greatness” is not the victory, but holiness is! When we look at the lives of the “great saints” who have gone before us, we should admire their holy living so as to imitate it, not their title of “being one of the greats”. The point should be our desire for a godly and holy life, and the belief that we too can live in such a way (and that we are all called to live in such a way)! Many of us today need to realize that these “great saints” lives are not extraordinary, they were simply living Christianity as it is meant to be lived. There aren’t great saints. There is a great Savior and the difference between those who wholly live for Christ and those who do not. We are not to seek to be “great Christians” but to be greatly Christian.
Much has gone wrong in the church because many are so busy trying to be great, and others are those who concede to them “being great” while they go on to permit themselves to live in idleness. This is the great “trade” for so many, pride and idleness shaking hands. Many people continue to confuse this pride and spiritual covetousness with “zeal for God”, and others continue to “concede to others being ‘great’” and claim humility as their motivation, when their real motivation is one of idleness (self-pleasing) and from the deceptive belief of being less accountable to holiness in this life. All of this is not of the Spirit that greatly seeks holiness; it’s either “zeal” or “humility” of the flesh, one sin making an agreement with another. All of this must be done away with. We must all earnestly seek holiness, pursuing it for ourselves and getting out of the way, acknowledging that others are to pursue the same.
There is a gross inequality in the church today, where we act as if “some” are called to live great and holy lives, rather than all being equally called to the great height of holiness. If any of us fail to reach this, then we are going to be ashamed for this, not acquitted of this! And if we covet even something like the great things of God—does this make us great, or a hindrance to righteousness in this world? “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt 16:23, Emphasis mine) The self-focused ambition of some believers is a great hindrance to others walking in this holiness. While circumstances can differ for people, all are called to “give every effort” after holiness, whatever circumstances they are in (2 Pet 1:5). And all people should have the right to fully press after this in their own lives.
This life is all we have, and coming before God with a great victory of holy living is the call for each of us. What a terrible evil to lose this because we either lived instead for pride or idleness or both. And what a terrible evil to do to others to covet this crown of victory only for ourselves, and even work against people in this! So many boast of not coveting gold in this world, yet what they covet is far worse!—the great dignity of a holy life for all saints! To covet the great things of God for ourselves is the greater, not lesser, covetousness.
When we think so much of “greatness” in this way, we are still carnal, still just like the people of the world (1 Cor 3:3), attempting to seek a victory by fleshly efforts. We just now see religion as a means for this rather than some worldly wisdom. We have not put off the fleshly means of how we try to achieve victory. We continue to “cheat”, “elbow”, and “fight”, “other-ing” and coveting to get it, trusting in this, rather than trusting in true righteous living, in running the race of life by competing according to the rules (2 Tim 2:5).
This kind of conceit and/or idleness is where much of the weakness in the church is springing from. To live for ambition, but not holiness. Pleasure, but not holiness. Idleness, but not Christ. Playing around in our intellects, but not the Gospel of Christ. No, to overcome, to have the great victory in this life, is to fight precisely this flesh in ourselves; to overcome it so that we live for holiness and the Gospel of Christ, rather than for all these other vain or fading things. If we are to truly have victory in Christ, then we all have much work to get past these. To put off both “greatness” and idleness for that of holiness and Christ Himself, realizing how both are a compromise to the call for all Christians: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor 5:15)
As Christians we should be in love with the holiness that is found in God, and desire so deeply to fill our lives up with it. We should also see others who are truly walking in righteousness not as competitors, or “great”, but as equal victors of the crown of all who set their lives by the same course. And our peace and joy in their victory is our love for their righteous living. Are we like that? Do we compete according to the rules for the true crown? Or do we believe in ambition, experiences, sufferings (self pity), idleness, etc as some means of a meaningful/victorious life? These are all efforts to cheat at the race of life, rather than win a true victory, a life truly lived in righteousness.
God teaches us that there is one path to victory, a life of holiness lived through Christ. Anything around us that comes to lure us away, or to cause us to hinder others in living in such a way is a great threat to our own crown. The very ambition we trust in is the very thing that threatens to take away our crown. We must learn to yearn jealously over our crown and the crown of other saints.
Be assured, you have this life to overcome, to put off the flesh, and you have all of God’s help to do this. You will be victorious if you fight for it. But equally be assured, that if you settle for pride, ambition, selfishness, and idleness, then you will not have the victory. Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33), that is what this means! He’s overcome all the ways of the flesh of mankind, the blindness of the devil, the deceit of the human heart. And he has set the great race before us to win! But we only win if we truly set ourselves after this victory (Heb 12:1, Ja 1:12). This is the great “sleep” that so many in the church need to be woken up from. Stay awake.
What is the victorious life? It is the holy life, one cleansed of pride, self living, prejudice/partiality, foolishness/naivety, lusts, passions, hatred, impurity, godlessness, and all forms of sin and self in our lives. Those who truly contend after this, and the good works that align with this, enter into the victory Christ has won for us.
August 3, 2022