FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF EATON RAPIDS

Elder’s Insight – September 27th, 2017

Hail to the Victors

All over the world, Christians are under attack.  Here in the U.S., it’s mostly our ideas and beliefs taking hits.  Yet even here, an increasing number of God’s people are losing businesses, relationships, or jobs because of their faith.  In other parts of the world, Christians are being displaced or even killed.  Every day we feel the onslaught.  All who pursue lives pleasing to God sense the anger and animus.

As these battles rage, it’s easy to despair.  Sometimes we feel and act like conquered people living under a repressive regime.  We avert our gaze, keep our heads down, talk in whispers, avoid confrontation, and stay out of the limelight.  We hang with like-minded brothers and sisters, read and watch only what brings comfort, and gravitate toward our safe places.  We try not to be “too” christian in public, carefully blending in as best we can.  Living moment to tentative moment, we fear one small misstep will brand us an outcast and lead to calamity.

It’s a mindset easy to understand.  History is the record of persecuted Christians.  From the day of Jesus, we’ve feared for our physical safety and our way of life.  Through the centuries, many have suffered.  We are strangers in a strange land, always out of step with our contemporaries, sublimely different from the world in our beliefs, our personalities, and our behavior.  This world is not our home and we feel the disconnect.  It’s as if we’re losing ground everywhere we look.

But where are we, really, in the great battle, the battle between good and evil on this planet?  Are we people on defense, wounded souls protecting what little we have left against the overwhelming forces of Satan?  Are we desperate survivors, holding on for dear life, while the enemy circles around us?  Are we the rag-tag remnant of a mighty kingdom, living anxious lives while we wait for the return of our king? 

Clearly, Satan would like us to think so.  He would love to enfeeble us with fear, silence us with doubt, or destroy us with discouragement.  But what’s the truth?

In Romans 8 it says this (emphasis mine):  “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is a song of victory, not defeat.  As the battle rages we get to see the end of the story, the final chapter, the conclusion of all things.  And we, through Jesus Christ, have won.  We are the victors, not the victims.  It’s not that we will win, it’s that we’ve already won. We are more than conquerors – right now, right here.

But what a strange victory.  Who hails the conquering heroes, who hails the victors valiant?  No public statues, no ticker-tape parades, no schools named in our honor, no spoils to share, no wreaths on our graves, no memorial day.  We don’t even act like victors.  We turn the other cheek, we extend love and grace to our enemies, we give our riches away, we use our time to help those in need, we lay down great swaths of our life for the sake of others.  We turn our back on all the trappings of victory and live quiet, simple lives.  If we’re more than conquerers, it sure doesn’t look or feel like it. 

But think about this.  Jesus’s greatest victory came precisely when he suffered the most ignominious death imaginable.  At Golgotha, his glory shone brightest under a sky darkened by the sneering hosts of hell.  As he cried out; “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he defeated death and saved not just us, but all that is.  When he breathed his last, those around him agreed “it is finished” but the ruin they thought they saw was a triumph they couldn’t imagine.  Is it possible what looks like catastrophe to us may look like victory to God?

All the hurt, the indignity, the abuse, the scorn, and the shame we suffer may look and feel like defeat.  But if we respond to these things with God’s grace, they become victories.  Every small kindness, done in Jesus’ name, is a battle won.  Every evil thought overcome is a triumph.  Every moment we spend in prayer wreaks havoc on our enemy.  We crush Satan not with raised fists or angry voices but with humble service to the kingdom.  The least among us are truly the greatest and it’s God keeping score.

There will come a time when we will shine like lights in the universe.  I think we already do.  There is much around us we do not see and forces at work beyond our comprehension.  But in the grand scheme, the eternal conflict, we are cheered and celebrated from the high towers of heaven.  We are elevated above the angels and destined to rule with Christ.  We who call ourselves by the name of Christ are powerful, and eternal, and dangerous.  Although we don’t see it, evil trembles in our presence and every day brings us closer to our enemy’s complete annihilation.

In John 16:3 Jesus says this; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Jesus has won!  In I John 4:3-4, John speaks of those who appose us, those who embody “the spirit of the antichrist.”  Listen to what he says (emphasis mine); “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  We, too, have won!

Because Christ overcame, we overcome.  Because Jesus is strong, we are indomitable.  Because God is in us, we need not fear this world.  Hail to the victors indeed!

Paul Wegner