Part of the good news that is ours in Jesus Christ is that now that Christ has won his victory, he extends that victory to us; accept that victory, accept his gift to us, and live accordingly. This is critical for us in understanding what it means to live the Christian life, because it points us to the fact that we should not expect Christ to leave us as we are, with the same old behavior patterns and the same old comfort zones. We may well have many of the same struggles—Jesus doesn’t magically make all our temptations go away when we become Christians—and indeed, as we grow closer to him, we tend to find new ones, as his Spirit convicts us of areas of sin that we’d overlooked; but though our struggles don’t disappear, our attitude toward them ought to change, and we ought to see progress in our lives toward the holiness of God. Our lives should not look the same as everyone else’s.
The problem in talking about Christian victory, though, is that we have to be careful to explain what we mean. After all, we have an idea of what victory means that we’ve learned from the world, and so it’s easy and natural to assume that God is talking about the same thing; that’s why we have the “prosperity gospel” types who teach that victorious Christian living means job success, financial comfort, a perfect marriage, kids who turn out exactly how you want them to turn out, and whatever else it might take to give you a perfect sense of self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment on your own terms. It’s basically your dream life on steroids, and if you don’t get it—if your life has disappointments and struggles and failures—well, then, you just must be a bad Christian.
And that isn’t the gospel. That isn’t even related to the gospel. When we talk about gospel victory, we need to remember first and foremost that our exemplar for gospel victory is Jesus—and what did his victory look like? Thorns—nails—public humiliation—and death from heart failure due to blood loss and dehydration. Victory in Jesus is not necessarily going to be a dream come true. In point of fact, where some like to talk about living in victory—your “best life” (whatever that means) now, without all the messy growth process—I think we do better to talk about living into Jesus’ victory, because it’s really not something that comes naturally for us. We have to retrain ourselves and our expectations, and our sense of what that victory actually means for us and our lives.
That begins, I think, with accepting that Jesus’ victory doesn’t mean victory over circumstances so much as it means victory in the midst of circumstances. God doesn’t save us out of the world, but rather into the world, for the sake of the world. He doesn’t insulate us from its problems because that would insulate us from the part he wants us to play in addressing them. As we look at the world around us, as we consider the hard times so many are facing, with layoffs and stock losses and foreclosures, it’s tempting to circle the wagons and focus on what this is doing to us. It’s a lot harder in times like this to sit up and say, “We don’t exist for our own sake, just to take care of ourselves; we exist for the world around us, and we need to keep our focus there.” But you know what? Hard as it may be, that is why we exist, and that is what we need to do; as Mordecai said to Esther, it’s for such a time as this that God placed us here to begin with.
(Excerpted, edited, from “For Such a Time as This”)