Romans 8 is, at least in my opinion, one of the greatest chapters in all the Bible. In it we find a beautiful and hope-giving description of the work of the Spirit, the power of the gospel, and the identity of the Christian. On this last point, as Paul is overcome with the love and grace of Jesus, he actually goes so far as to make up a word to describe who we are in Christ:
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
Because of you
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35-37).
Paul says that we are “more than conquerors.” That’s the made up word – it means something like superconqerors. What a thing, and yet the context of the word tells us that something is amiss. Paul asks the rhetorical question of what can separate us from the love of Christ. Can affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or anything else? The answer is no, and yet the fact that he asks the question at all tells us that these are the things that we will come against as Christians. It sure doesn’t seem like a super-victorious life when you’re facing down nakedness, danger, and the sword.
This is where we live – knowing that in one sense, we are more than conquerors, and yet through daily life understanding from our experience that this truth doesn’t mean we are impervious to the pain of that life. Paul himself would attest, having been beaten, shipwrecked, plagued with disease, bitten by snakes, that the victorious Christian life doesn’t mean a life that’s healthy, wealthy, and wise. The truly victorious Christian life must then be characterized by other things. What might they be?
1. The victorious Christian is faithful.
It’s certainly not as exciting as being bulletproof or being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but the victorious Christian life is characterized by faithfulness. And faithfulness in a host of regular, everyday things. The victorious Christian is a faithful husband. A faithful mother. A faithful employee. A faithful church members. Living in victory means living out with joy the responsibilities God has given to us, no matter how big or small they appear to be in a given moment.
2. The victorious Christian makes spiritual progress.
It’s a mistake to think that the victorious Christian doesn’t struggle with sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it’s probably more true that the victorious Christian struggles more with sin than anyone else. That’s because as we grow closer to Jesus we come to see just how far we have to go in our knowledge of Him and our pursuit of holiness. Victory isn’t, then, the stoppage of sin; victory is staying in the fight diligently and continuing to move forward in our relationship with Jesus.
3. The victorious Christian perseveres.
Just. Keep. Going. This is one of the main messages of the entire book of Hebrews: Because Jesus is better, just keep going. The victorious Christian, in other words, is the Christian who finishes the race. It doesn’t mean we are fist pumping all the way across that finish line; it only means that we don’t give up and abandon running completely. Just. Keep. Going. And in the perseverance, there is victory.
What does the victorious Christian life really look like? Don’t believe the lie that says that Christians who live in victory never experience pain, or hardship, or suffering, or even a struggle with sin. It’s not true. Victory in Jesus is not equivalent to an exemption from trouble. Nor does it mean that you look like a champion in the eyes of the world. Instead, the victorious Christian life looks like quiet faithfulness, spiritual progress, and perseverance fueled by the sure hope of the resurrection of Jesus.