Do you live in the shadows or in the sun? If you take a few minutes to consider the highs and lows of your life so far, how do you think it adds up? We all want to live on ‘victory hilltop’ but often find ourselves in the ‘valley of defeat’. This can be related to achievements, finances, relationships, moral decisions, faith and our walk with God. Rather than being a steady progression, for many Christians life seems more like a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ – one minute riding high and the next crashing down a spiral of disappointment when apparent success has given way to abject failure. This woodland walk is beset with pitfalls from unseen hazards in the shadows but there is a better path heading towards the light. How to get on the path where gains outweigh losses and victory triumphs over defeat?
- ‘The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile’ – Plato
- ‘Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory’ – Frederick William Faber
- ‘The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult’ – Winston Churchill
- ‘I think that I am a walking testimony to you …. You can go through turbulent times and still have victory in your life’ – Natalie Cole
At the 1924 Paris Olympics, Eric Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favoured 100 metres because they were held on a Sunday. It seemed a crushing defeat. Instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, a race that he won setting a World and Olympic record of 49.7 seconds. A true hero, he went on to give his life to serving the poor as a missionary in China, dying aged 43 of a brain tumour. Liddell summed up the way he used his life for God in his last recorded words: “It’s complete surrender”. This may not be the usual way people think of victory, but for the Christian it is apt as victory has a lot to do with persevering through self-denial. The Triathlon is a punishing Olympic event in ordinary circumstances but Georgia Taylor Brown won silver in the Tokyo Olympics 27th July 2021 despite being on crutches with a leg injury two weeks beforehand and then a flat tyre part way round the cycling component.
- ‘No matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out’ – Al Gore
- ‘Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more’ – Louis L’Amour
- ‘Time is everything; five minutes makes the difference between victory and defeat’ – Horatio Nelson
- ‘The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else’ – Martina Navratilova
What would the prophet Elijah say to those quotes as he ran from the victory of Mount Carmel to hide in despair and fear in a cave? It is interesting to note that dangers are present in victory as well as in defeat – both states are a test of character, of grace and of humility. Whether you are in a place of victory or defeat, whilst human wisdom is interesting, God’s Word remains as the only foundation that can be trusted for your path ahead.
- ‘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? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ – Romans 8:31-37
- ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ – Philippians 4:13
- ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ – 2 Corinthians 12:9
- ‘But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold’ – Job 23:10
In Christ alone, your past, present and future are secure. No matter if it is victory or defeat today, it is ultimately victory in Christ as one who overcomes because he has overcome all things for our sakes. The cross of Jesus seemed like defeat but it was the greatest triumph as the Lord was willing to ‘drink the cup’ in complete surrender for death to be ‘swallowed up in victory’. Followers of Christ Jesus now walk in the victory procession of the Victor; even when we don’t win every personal battle, we know that the war is won over sin by the blood of our Saviour. Our destinies are held with the Lord in heavenly realms where former things will pass away. The defeat of everything that has been against us in this life is certain such that even our defeats can be turned into victory as we live our lives in ‘complete surrender’. Every day, we need grace, the active work of the cross and to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. We will never earn more grace in victory or deserve forgiveness less in defeat so long as we look to Christ as our Way, Truth and Life.
- ‘And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away’ – Isaiah 35:8-10
- ‘Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us’ – 2 Corinthians 1:9-10
- ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ – 1 John 1:9
- ‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand’ – Psalm 40:2
- ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’ – Hebrews 12:1-3
God knows our frail hearts and his unchanging plans for his children. Whilst all is now temporary, each personal battle is an opportunity to give glory to God. We should neither live with an attitude of defeat nor in triumphalist vain glory that looks down on others who may be struggling. We should take care lest we fall and be seeking to restore the weak as we hope they may encourage us when we are down.
If you are in the shadows somewhat off the path or ensnared, don’t lose hope but grab hold of the hand of mercy to pull you out of the bog and be restored back on the pathway of light to which you are called. If you are reading this, it’s not too late, whatever you may have said, thought or done. Each time you turn back to God is a victory and something to build upon. Whilst every defeat brings some loss (perhaps of joy and peace in your walk with God), it has potential to draw you closer as you acknowledge your need in genuine repentance and humility. Take care that it doesn’t lead to a hardening of the heart, a dulling of conscience or a distancing – the further away you get, the harder it is to hear the voice of the one calling you and to remember His love for you. Remember the Prodigal Son was always loved by his Father who never gave up on him but was always hoping to see him return to be restored to his full inheritance. Grace is undeserved in the first place and always will be, whether you feel you are in victory or defeat. You are called to victory over defeat, now, always and ultimately.
TAGS – salvation, justification, predestination, glorification, redemption, eternal, eternity, honour, praise