There are those times when you pray, and then you pray again, and then you pray again.
And nothing happens. It feels like those prayers you lift up about your health, your children, your church – they hit the ceiling and then fall back to the ground. There is no measurable change in your life situation; the kids are the same. The marriage is still troubled. The church is still divided. The balance sheet hasn’t fluctuated. When you pray and pray and pray again and nothing happens, you can feel yourself slipping, ever so slightly, into a sense of despair.
This slipping is slow, but it’s there – the joy and hope that once felt so natural slowly ebbs away and is replaced by… nothing. Just a sense of emptiness, and hopelessness. In your more lucid moments during days like these, there is a question that forms down in the recesses of your heart that goes something like this:
Is this what the victorious Christian life looks like?
It’s a question born out of Scripture. Remember the triumphant language of Romans 8, when Paul extols the greatness of the love of God, that love which nothing can separate us from? In fact, in that passage, Paul actually makes up a word to describe the Christian. He calls us, who claim the name of Jesus because Jesus has laid to us, “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). He combines two words: the preposition “above” (“super” in Latin) with “victory.” The person described has surpassing victory where the enemy is completely routed. Not only that, but the verb is in the present active indicative which implies continuity. The Christian is continually winning this victory. They are super-victors.
Really? Because when you pray and pray and pray again, and nothing seems to be happening, you don’t feel like a super-victor; in fact, you’d settle for being a “little-victor.”
So is this what a victorious Christian life looks like? One who struggles with sin and despair?
Is this what a victorious Christian life looks like? One who is ailing from the same disease day after day?
Is this what a victorious Christian life looks like? Those who are marched onto a beach to be martyred because of their faith?
Super-victors? Not us. Not even close.
And yet in moments like these, we have an opportunity to realize there is a greater victory. There is a greater victory than physical prosperity. There is a greater victory than safety and comfort. There is a greater victory than a good reputation in the community. There is a greater victory that cannot be measured in our circumstances but can only be seen in light of eternity. The greater victory for the Christian does not ebb and flow based on our feelings, our pain, our financial situation, or even our death. The greater victory is what comes next.
Paul, for his part, did not have an unrealistic view of the Christian life. If you look back at Romans 8, you’ll see a series of rhetorical questions:
- If God is for us, who can be against us?
- How will He not also with Him grant us everything?
- Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
- Who is the one who condemns?
- Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
If the victory Christian live meant a utopian set of circumstances, then why ask these questions at all? The reason Paul brings them up is because we will have those come against us. We will be deprived of things. We will be accused and condemned. And affliction, anguish, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword will threaten to separate us from the love of God in Christ.
The victory, then, is not that these things won’t happen or will stop happening; it’s bigger than that. The victory is that even in the presence of these things, we are even still victorious in Christ.
Christian, don’t settle for rejoicing in the tiny battle. Instead, refocus on the greater one and know that we have won in Him.